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On Kant and Marx
Kojin Karatani
translated by Sabu Kohso
The MIT Press
Cambridge, Massachusetts
London, England
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© 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any
electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying recording, or information
storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
This book was set in New Baskerville by UG / GGS Information Services, Inc. and
printed and bound in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Karatani, Kojin, 1941–
Transcritique on Kant and Marx / Kojin Karatani; translated by Sabu Kohso.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-262-11274-4 (alk. paper)
1. Kant, Immanuel, 1724–1804—Contributions in political science.
2. Kant, Immanuel, 1724–1804—Contributions in economics. 3. Kant, Immanuel,
1724–1804. 4. Marx, Karl, 1818–1883—Contributions in political science.
5. Marx, Karl, 1818–1883—Contributions in economics. 6. Marx, Karl,
1818–1883. I. Title
JC181.K3 K37 2003
320Ј.01—dc21 2002038051
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Preface vii
Acknowledgments xv
Introduction: What Is Transcritique? 1
I Kant 27
1 The Kantian Turn 29
1.1 The Copernican Turn 29
1.2 Literary Criticism and the Transcendental Critique 35
1.3 Parallax and the Thing-in-Itself 44
2 The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment 55
2.1 Mathematical Foundations 55
2.2 The Linguistic Turn 65
2.3 Transcendental Apperception 76
3 Transcritique 81
3.1 Subject and Its Topos 81
3.2 Transcendental and Transversal 92
3.3 Singularity and Sociality 100
3.4 Nature and Freedom 112
II Marx 131
4 Transposition and Critique 133
4.1 Transposition 133
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4.2 The System of Representation: Darstellung and Vertretung 142
4.3 The Economic Crisis as a Parallax 152
4.4 The Micro Difference 161
4.5 Marx and Anarchists 165
5 The Crisis of Synthesis 185
5.1 The Form of Value qua Synthetic Judgment:
Ex Ante Facto and Ex Post Facto 185
5.2 The Form of Value 193
5.3 Capital’s Drive 200
5.4 Money and Its Theology, Its Metaphysics 211
5.5 Credit and Crisis 217
6 Value Form and Surplus Value 223
6.1 Value and Surplus Value 223
6.2 The Linguistic Approach 228
6.3 Merchant Capital and Industrial Capital 234
6.4 Surplus Value and Profit 241
6.5 The Global Nature of Capitalism 251
7 Toward Transcritical Counteractions 265
7.1 The State, Capital, and Nation 265
7.2 A Possible Communism 283
Notes 307
Index 349
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This book is in two parts: reflections on Kant and on Marx. Although
the two names would appear to split the book, it is in fact thoroughly
inseparable; the two parts are interactive through and through. The
whole of the project—what I call Transcritique—forms a space of
transcodings between the domains of ethics and political economy,
between the Kantian critique and the Marxian critique. This is an at-
tempt to read Kant via Marx and Marx via Kant, and to recover the
significance of the critique common to both. This critique is something
that begins from a scrutiny, a rather elaborate self-scrutiny.
Now with respect to the pairing itself. Quite a few thinkers have
sought to connect these two since the late nineteenth century. This
was an effort to grasp a subjective/ethical moment missing in the
materialism called Marxism. It speaks to the fact that Kant was not in
the least a bourgeois philosopher. To him, being moral was less a
question of good and evil than of being causa sui and hence free, and
this compels us to treat other people as free agents. The ultimate
message of Kantian moral law lies in the imperative: “Act so that you
use humanity, whether in your own person or in any other person,
always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means.”
This is
not an abstract doctrine. Kant considered it a task to be realized pro-
gressively in the context of historical society. It might be that, in the
concrete, his goal was to establish an association of independent
small producers in opposition to the civil society dominated by mer-
chant capitalism. This was an ideal conceived in pre-industrial capi-
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talist Germany; later, however, in tandem with the rise of industrial
capitalism, the unity of independent small producers was mostly dis-
banded. But Kant’s moral law survived. Abstract as it might have
been, Kant’s position was a precursor to the views of the utopian
socialists and anarchists (such as Proudhon). In this precise sense,
Hermann Cohen identified Kant as the true primogenitor of German
socialism. In the context of a capitalist economy where people treat
each other merely as a means to an end, the Kantian “kingdom of
freedom” or “kingdom of ends” clearly comes to entail another new
meaning, that is, communism. If we think about it, from the begin-
ning, communism could not have been conceptualized without the
moral moment inherent in Kant’s thinking. Unfortunately and un-
fairly, however, Kantian Marxism has been eclipsed by history.
I, too, came to connect Kant and Marx, yet in a different context
from neo-Kantianism. From the beginning, the Kantian Marxists’
recognition of capitalism appeared to me to be feeble. I felt the
same way about anarchists (or associationists). While their sense of
freedom and ethical disposition are noteworthy, what was undeni-
ably missing in them was a theoretical approach to the forces of the
social relations that compel people. For this reason, their struggles
were mostly helpless and miserably defeated. My political stance was
once anarchistic, and I was never sympathetic to any Marxist party or
state. Yet at the same time, I was deeply in awe of Marx. My admira-
tion for Capital, the book with the subtitle “Kritik der politischen
Ökonomie” (Critique of the Economics of Nations) has only intensi-
fied year by year. Being a student of political economics and reading
Capital closely, sentence by sentence, I was always aware of and dis-
contented with the fact that Marxist philosophers from Lukács to
Althusser did not really read it full-heartedly, but instead, only took
from it what was suitable to their philosophical concerns. I was also
discontented with the majority of political economists who deem
Capital simply a book on economy. Meanwhile, I gradually recog-
nized that the Marxian critique was not a mere criticism of capital-
ism and classical economics, but a project that elucidates the nature
and the limit of capital’s drive [Trieb], and furthermore reveals, on
the basis of that drive, an essential difficulty entailed in the human
act of exchange (or more broadly, communication). Capital does
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not offer an easy exit from capitalism; rather only by its very exitlessness
does it suggest a possibility of practical intervention.
Along the way, I became increasingly aware of Kant as a thinker who
also sought to suggest the possibility of practice—less by a criticism of
metaphysics (as is usually thought) than by bravely shedding light
on the limit of human reason. Capital is commonly read in relation
with Hegelian philosophy. In my case, I came to hold that it is only
the Critique of Pure Reason that should be read while cross-referencing
Capital. Thus the Marx/Kant intersection.
Marx spoke very little of communism, except for the rare occa-
sions on which he criticized others’ discourses on the subject. He
even said somewhere that speaking of the future was itself reac-
tionary. Up until the climate change of 1989, I also despised all ideas
of possible futures. I believed that the struggle against capitalism
and the state would be possible without ideas of a future, and that
we should only sustain the struggle endlessly in response to each
contradiction arising from a real situation. The collapse of the
socialist bloc in 1989 compelled me to change my stance. Until then,
I, as many others, had been rebuking Marxist states and communist
parties; that criticism had unwittingly taken for granted their solid
existence and the appearance that they would endure forever. As
long as they survived, we could feel we had done something just by
negating them. When they collapsed, I realized that my critical
stance had been paradoxically relying on their being. I came to feel
that I had to state something positive. It was at this conjuncture that
I began to confront Kant.
Kant is commonly—and not wrongly—known as a critic of meta-
physics. For the development of this line, the influence of Hume’s
skeptical empiricism was large; Kant confessed that it was the idea
that first interrupted his dogmatic slumber.
But what is overlooked
is that at the time he wrote Critique of Pure Reason, metaphysics was
unpopular and even disdained. In the preface, he expressed his re-
grets: “There was a time when metaphysics was called the queen of
all sciences, and if the will be taken for the deed, it deserved this
title of honor, on account of the preeminent importance of its ob-
ject. Now, in accordance with the fashion of the age, the queen
proves despised on all sides.”
It follows that for Kant, the primary
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task of critique was to recover metaphysics’ proper function. This in
turn charged Kant with the critique of Hume, who had once so radi-
cally stimulated him. I now want to reconsider the relationship
between Kant and Hume in the context of the current debate.
During the 1980s, a revival of Kant was a discernible phenome-
non. In Hannah Arendt’s pioneering work, Lectures on Kant’s Politi-
cal Philosophy, and in Jean-François Lyotard’s L’enthousiasme: La
critique kantienne de l’histoire, the return to Kant meant a rereading of
Critique of Judgment. The point taken was that ‘universality’—a sine
qua non for the judgment of taste—cannot be achieved, in reality,
among a multitude of conflicting subjects. At best what one gets is a
‘common sense’ that regulates conflicting tastes case by case. This
work appeared to be drastically different from Kant’s Critique of Pure
Reason, which assumed a transcendental subjectivity that watches
over universality (a reading that I examine in the following chap-
ters.) The political implications of this new appreciation of Kant
were clear, not excepting those of Habermas, who sought to recon-
sider reason as “communicative rationality”: It was a criticism of
communism qua ‘metaphysics’.
Marxism has been accused of being rationalist and teleological in
its attempt to realize the grand narrative. Stalinism was indeed a
consequence of this tendency: The party of intellectuals led the pop-
ulace by reason embodying the law of history, and thus the infamous
tragedy. In opposition to this, the power of reason has been ques-
tioned, the superiority of intellectuals has been denied, and the
teleology of history negated. The reexamination of Marxism has in-
volved public consensus and negotiation among multiple language
games as opposed to the central control of reason, and heterogene-
ity of experience or complexity of causality as opposed to a rational-
ist (metaphysical) view of history; on the other hand, the present,
which has hitherto been sacrificed by telos, is reaffirmed in its quali-
tative heterogeneity (or in the sense of Bergsonian duration). I, too,
was part of this vast tendency—called deconstruction, or the archae-
ology of knowledge, and so on—which I realized later could have
critical impact only while Marxism actually ruled the people of many
nation-states. In the 1990s, this tendency lost its impact, having be-
come mostly a mere agent of the real deconstructive movement of
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capitalism. Skeptical relativism, multiple language games (or public
consensus), aesthetic affirmation of the present, empirical histori-
cism, appreciation of subcultures (or cultural studies), and so forth
lost their most subversive potencies and hence became the domi-
nant, ruling thought. Today, these have become official doctrine in
the most conservative institutions in economically advanced nation-
states. All in all, this tendency can be summarized as the apprecia-
tion of empiricism (including aestheticism) against rationalism. In
this sense, it has become increasingly clear that the return to Kant in
recent years has actually been a return to Hume.
Meanwhile, it was in the effort of going beyond the empiricist
tendency—as a critique of Hume—that I began to read Kant. This,
to state it outright, is a project to reconstruct the metaphysics called
communism. It was Kant who provided the most lucid insight into
metaphysics’ proper role and the inseparable and inevitable tie be-
tween faith and reason. “Thus I had to deny knowledge in order to
make room for faith; and the dogmatism of metaphysics, i.e., the
prejudice that without criticism reason can make progress in meta-
physics, is the true source of all unbelief conflicting with morality,
which unbelief is always very dogmatic.”
With this statement, it is
not that Kant sought to recover religion per se; what he affirmed was
the aspect of religion that tends toward morality, encouraging us to
be moral.
In contrast to mainstream Marxists, Marx persistently refused to
consider communism as “constitutive idea (or constitutive use of
reason)” in Kant’s sense, and he rarely spoke of the future. Thus in
The German Ideology, Marx made an addition to the text written by
Engels: “Communism for us is not a state of affairs which is to be es-
tablished, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call
communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of
things. The conditions of this movement result from the now exist-
ing premise.”
Therefore, the dogmatization of communism as a
“scientific socialism” was much the kind of metaphysics Marx re-
futed. But this is not contradictory to the fact that he nurtured com-
munism as “regulative idea (regulative use of reason).” So the young
Marx stressed the categorical imperative: “The criticism of religion
ends with the teaching that man is the highest being for man, hence
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with the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is
a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable being.”
For him, commu-
nism was a Kantian categorical imperative, that is, practical and
moral par excellence. He maintained this stance his whole life,
though later he concentrated his efforts on the theoretical search
for the historico-material conditions that would enable the categori-
cal imperative to be realized. Meanwhile, the mainstream Marxists,
having derided morality and advocated “historical necessity” and
“scientific socialism,” ended up constituting a new type of slave soci-
ety. This was nothing short of what Kant called “all pretensions of
reason in general [aller Anmaßungen der Vernunft überhaupt].” Distrust
of communism has spread, and the responsibility for “the true
source of all unbelief” lies with dogmatic Marxism. One cannot and
should not forget the miseries of the twentieth century caused by
communism, nor should one take this mistake simply as misfortune.
From that juncture onward we have not been allowed to advocate
‘Idea’ of any kind—not even of the New Left, which came into exis-
tence by negating Stalinism—with a naive positivity. That is why “in ac-
cordance with the fashion of the age, [communism] proves despised
on all ideas.” Yet at the same time, other kinds of dogmatism are
flourishing in various costumes. Furthermore, while intellectuals of
advanced nations have been expressing their distrust of morality, vari-
ous kinds of religious fundamentalism have begun to gain strength all
over the world, and the intellectuals cannot simply scorn them.
For these reasons, beginning in the 1990s, my stance, if not my
thinking itself, changed fundamentally. I came to believe that theory
should not remain in the critical scrutiny of the status quo but
should propose something positive to change the reality. At the
same time, I reconfirmed the difficulty of doing so. Social democ-
racy to me would not offer any promising prospect, and it was finally
around the turn of the new century that I began to see a ray of hope
that led me to organize the New Associationist Movement (NAM) in
Japan. Certainly innumerable real movements that seek to abolish
the status quo are occurring in all corners of the world, inevitably,
under the procession of the globalization of world capitalism. But,
in order to avoid the repetition of bygone mistakes, I insist that a
transcritical recognition is necessary.
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That is to say, a new practice cannot be initiated without a thor-
ough scrutiny of existing theories; and the theories to which I refer
are not limited to political ones. I became convinced that there is
nothing that is unaffected by or outside of Kantian and Marxian cri-
tiques. In this project, henceforth, I did not hesitate to dive into all
possible domains including the theory of mathematical foundations,
linguistics, aesthetics, and ontological philosophy (i.e., existential-
ism). I dealt with problems with which only specialists are customar-
ily concerned. Furthermore, part I (on Kant) and part II (on Marx)
were written as independent reflections, so their rapport might be
ostensible. For this reason, I had to write a rather long introduction
in order to make the connection visible, if not to summarize the
whole book.
Notwithstanding the complexity and variety of the theoretical sub-
jects, however, I believe that the book is accessible to the general
reader. The book is based upon a series of essays that were pub-
lished in the Japanese literary monthly Gunzo, beginning in 1992.
They were published alongside novels, which is to say that I did not
write them in the enclosure of the academy and scholarly discourse.
I wrote them for people who are not grounded in special domains.
Thus the nature of the book is not academic. There are many aca-
demic papers on Kant and Marx that carefully research historical
data, point out their theoretical shortcomings, and propose minute
and sophisticated doctrines. I am not interested in doing that. I
would not dare to write a book to reveal shortcomings; I would
rather write one to praise, and only for praiseworthy works. So it is
that I do not quibble with Kant and Marx. I sought to read their
texts, focusing on the center of their potencies. But I think that as a
consequence no book is more critical of them than this.
The main target of the book is the trinity of Capital-Nation-State.
I have to admit, however, that my analyses of state and nation are
not fully developed; the considerations on the economy and revolu-
tion of the underdeveloped (agriculture-centered) and developing
countries are not sufficient. These are my future projects.
Finally, I include here only a small portion of my reflections on
the particular historical context of Japan—the state, its modernity,
and its Marxism—in which my thinking was fostered. I plan to deal
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with these in a sequel. In fact, I owe much of my thinking to the “tra-
dition” of Japanese Marxism, and Transcritique was nurtured in the
difference between Japanese and Western as well as other Asian con-
texts, and in my own singular experience of oscillating and tranvers-
ing between them. In this volume, however, I did not write about
these experiences, but rather expressed them only in line with the
texts of Kant and Marx.
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In writing this book, I was supported by many people. I would espe-
cially like to thank the translators, Sabu Kohso and Judy Geib. I also
would like to thank Geoff Waite, who checked the English transla-
tion and gave us invaluable suggestions; Fredric Jameson and Masao
Miyoshi have given me enduring moral support and constructive
advice. I owe Akira Asada, Paul Anderer, Mitsuo Sekii, Indra Levy,
the late Yuji Naito, and Lynne Karatani for providing practical and
patient encouragement for the realization of the book.
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Introduction: What Is Transcritique?
Kantian philosophy is called transcendental, as distinct from tran-
scendent. Simply stated, the transcendental approach seeks to cast
light on the unconscious structure that precedes and shapes experi-
ence. And yet, can’t it be said that from its very inception, philoso-
phy itself has always taken just such an introspective approach? If
that is the case, then what distinguishes Kantian reflection? Kant’s
unique way of reflection appeared in his early work, Dreams of a
Visionary. Kant wrote, “Formerly, I viewed human common sense
only from the standpoint of my own; now I put myself into the posi-
tion of another’s reason outside of myself, and observe my judg-
ments, together with their most secret causes, from the point of view
of others. It is true that the comparison of both observations results
in pronounced parallax, but it is the only means of preventing the
optical delusion, and of putting the concept of the power of knowl-
edge in human nature into its true place.” What Kant is saying here
is not the platitude that one should see things not only from one’s
own point of view, but also from the point of view of others. In fact,
it is the reverse. If one’s subjective view is an optical delusion, then
the objective perspective or the viewpoint of others cannot but be an
optical delusion as well. And if the history of philosophy is nothing
but the history of such reflections, then the history of philosophy is
itself nothing but optical delusion. The reflection that Kant brought
about is the kind that reveals that reflections in the past were optical
delusions. This Kantian reflection as a critique of reflection is
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engendered by “pronounced parallax” between the subjective view-
point and the objective viewpoint. To explain, take an example of a
technology that did not exist in Kant’s time.
Reflection is often spoken of by way of the metaphor of seeing
one’s image in the mirror. In the mirror, one sees one’s own face
from the perspective of the other. But in today’s context, photogra-
phy must also be taken into consideration. Compare the two. Al-
though the mirror image can be identified with the perspective of
the other, there is still certain complicity with regard to one’s own
viewpoint. After all, people can see their own image in the mirror as
they like, while the photograph looks relentlessly “objective.” Of
course, the photograph itself is an image (optical delusion) as well.
What counts then is the “pronounced parallax” between the mirror
image and photographic image. At the time photography was in-
vented, it is said that those who saw their own faces in pictures could
not help but feel a kind of abhorrence—just like hearing a tape
recording of one’s own voice for the first time. People gradually be-
come accustomed to photographs. In other words, people eventu-
ally come to see the image in the photograph as themselves. The
crux here is the pronounced parallax that people presumably
experience when they “first” see their photographic image.
Philosophy begins with introspection as mirror, and that is where
it ends. No attempt to introduce the perspective of the other can
change this essential fact. In the first place, philosophy began with
Socrates’ “dialogue.” But the dialogue itself is trapped within the
mirror, so to speak. People alternately criticize Kant for having re-
mained in a subjectivist self-scrutiny, or search for a way out of that
in the Critique of Judgment’s introduction of plural subjects. But the
truly revolutionary event in philosophy had already occurred in Cri-
tique of Pure Reason, where Kant attempted to obliterate the complic-
ity inherent in introspection precisely by confining himself to the
introspective framework. Here one can observe the attempt to intro-
duce an objectivity (qua otherness) that is totally alien to the con-
ventional space of introspection ϭmirror. Kant has been criticized
for his subjective method, lacking in the other. But in fact, his
thought is always haunted by the perspective of the other. Critique of
Pure Reason is not written in the self-critical manner of Dreams of a
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Visionary. And yet, “the pronounced parallax” has not disappeared.
This emerged in the form of antinomy, which exposes the fact that
both thesis and antithesis are nothing more than “optical delusions.”
In part I, I reread Kant from this perspective. The same is true of
part II. For instance, in The German Ideology Marx criticized the
young Hegelians—a group to which he himself had belonged just
months before, when he was exiled to France. To Engels, this book
presented a new view of history that replaced German idealism with
an economic purview. German ideology was nothing more than the
discourse of a backward nation, attempting to realize conceptually
that which had already become a reality in the advanced nation of
England. But for Marx, it was by stepping outside of Germany’s ide-
ology for the first time that he was able to experience an awakening,
accompanied by a certain shock. This was to see things neither from
his own viewpoint, nor from the viewpoint of others, but to face the
reality that is exposed through difference (parallax). When he
moved to England, Marx devoted himself to the critique of classical
economics, which was then dominant. In Germany, Marx had al-
ready carried out the critique of capitalism and classical economics.
What was it that endowed Marx with the new critical perspective that
came to fruition in Capital? It was an occurrence that, according to
the discourse of classical economics, could only be an accident or
mistake: the economic crisis, or more precisely, the pronounced
parallax brought about by it.
What is important is the fact that Marx’s critique was always born
from migration and the pronounced parallax that results from it.
Hegel criticized Kant’s subjectivism and emphasized objectivity. But
in Hegel, the pronounced parallax discovered by Kant is extin-
guished. Likewise, the pronounced parallax discovered by Marx was
extinguished by Engels and other Marxists. As a result, one is left
with an image of Kant and Marx as thinkers who constructed solid,
immovable systems. A closer reading, however, reveals that they
were in fact practicing constant transposition, and that the move to
different discursive systems was what brought about the pronounced
parallax. This is obvious in the case of the exiled Marx, but the same
thing can be observed in Kant as well. Kant was not an exile in spa-
tial terms—he never moved away from his hometown of Königsberg.
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Rather, it was his stance that made him a kind of exile, a man inde-
pendent from the state: Kant rejected a promotion to a post in
Berlin, the center of state academia, instead insisting on cosmopoli-
tanism. Kant is generally understood to have executed the transcen-
dental critique from a place that lies between rationalism and
empiricism. However, upon reading his strangely self-deprecating
Dreams of a Visionary Explained by Dreams of Metaphysics, one finds it
impossible to say that he was simply thinking from a place between
these two poles. Instead, it is the “parallax” between positions that
acts. Kant, too, performed a critical oscillation: He continuously
confronted the dominant rationalism with empiricism, and the
dominant empiricism with rationalism. The Kantian critique exists
within this movement itself. The transcendental critique is not some
kind of stable third position. It cannot exist without a transversal
and transpositional movement. It is for this reason that I have
chosen to name the dynamic critiques of Kant and Marx—which
are both transcendental and transversal—“transcritique.”
According to Louis Althusser, Marx made an epistemological
break in The German Ideology. But in my transcritical understanding,
the break did not occur once, but many times, and this one in par-
ticular was not the most significant. It is generally thought that
Marx’s break in The German Ideology was the establishment of histori-
cal materialism. But in fact that was pioneered by Engels, who wrote
the main body of the book. One must therefore look at Marx as a
latecomer to the idea; he came to it because of his obsession with a
seemingly outmoded problem (to Engels)—the critique of religion.
Thus Marx says: “For Germany the criticism of religion is in the main
complete, and criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism.”
He conducted a critique of state and capital as an extension of the
critique of religion. In other words, he persistently continued the
critique of religion under the names of state and capital. (And this
was not merely an application of the Feuerbachian theory of
self-alienation that he later abandoned.)
The development of industrial capitalism made it possible to see
previous history from the vantage point of production. So it is that
Adam Smith could already pose a stance akin to historical material-
ism by the mid-eighteenth century. But historical materialism does
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not have the potency to elucidate the capitalist economy that cre-
ated it. Capitalism, I believe, is nothing like the economic infrastruc-
ture. It is a certain force that regulates humanity beyond its
intentionality, a force that divides and recombines human beings. It
is a religio-generic entity. This is what Marx sought to decode for the
whole of his life. “A commodity appears at first sight an extremely
obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very
strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological
Here Marx is no longer questioning and problematizing
metaphysics or theology in the narrow sense. Instead, he grasps
the knotty problematic as “an extremely obvious, trivial thing.”
Thinking this way about Marx, one realizes that an equivalent of
historical materialism—or even what is known as Marxism for that
matter—could have existed without Marx, while the text Capital
could not have existed if not for him.
The ‘Marxian turn’—the kind that is truly significant and that
one cannot overlook—occurred in his middle career, in the shift
from Grundrisse or A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy to
Capital : it was the introduction of the theory of “value form.” What
provoked Marx’s radical turn, which came after he finished writing
Grundrisse, was his initiation to skepticism: It was Bailey’s critique of
Ricardo’s labor theory of value. According to David Ricardo, ex-
change value is inherent in a commodity, which is expressed by
money. In other words, money is just an illusion (Schein in Kant).
Based upon this recognition, both Ricardian Leftists and Proudhon
insisted on abolishing currency and on replacing it with the labor
money or the exchange bank. Criticizing them as he did, however,
Marx was still relying on the labor theory of value (akin to Ricardo).
On the other hand, Bailey criticized the Ricardian position by claim-
ing that the value of a commodity exists only in its relationship with
other commodities, and therefore the labor value that Ricardo in-
sists is inherent in a commodity is an illusion.
Samuel Bailey’s skepticism is similar to Hume’s criticism that
there is nothing like a Cartesian ego cogito; there are just many
egos. To this position, Kant responded that yes, an ego is just an illu-
sion, but functioning there is the transcendental apperception X.
But what one knows as metaphysics is that which considers the X as
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 5
something substantial. Nevertheless, one cannot really escape from
the drive [Trieb] to take it as an empirical substance in various con-
texts. If so, it is possible to say that an ego is not just an illusion, but a
transcendental illusion. Kant achieved this position later in his life;
but first his dogmatic slumber had to be interrupted by Hume’s
skepticism. And in this precise manner, Marx must have been se-
verely stricken by Bailey’s skepticism. But, again, like Kant, Marx
developed this thought into another dimension, which I would like
to call the “transcendental reflection on value.”
Classical economics held that each commodity internalizes a labor
value. But, in reality, commodities can have values only after their
relationship is synthesized by money, and each one of them is given
its value. In reality only prices exist as the indicators of the mutual
relations between commodities. Thus Bailey stressed that the value
of a commodity exists only thanks to its relationship with other com-
modities. But Bailey did not question what expresses price: money.
In other words, he did not question what relates commodities to
each other and composes the system: that is, money as the general
equivalent. Money in this sense is totally irrelevant to money as sub-
stance like gold or silver; rather, it is like a Kantian transcendental
apperception X, as it were. The stance to see it in relation to its ma-
teriality is what Marx called fetishism. After all, money as substance
is an illusion, but more correctly, it is a transcendental illusion in the
sense that it is hardly possible to discard it.
For mercantilists and bullionists—the predecessors of classical
economics—money was an object to be revered. This was evidently
the fetishism of money. Scorning this, classical economists posited
the substance of value in labor in and of itself. But this so-called
labor theory of value did not resolve the enigma of money; rather, it
reinforced and sustained it. Both Ricardo—the advocate of the
labor theory of value—and Bailey—its radical critic (and the unac-
knowledged primogenitor of neoclassical economics)—managed to
erase money only superficially. As Marx said, in times of crisis, people
still want money suddenly, going back to bullionism. The Marx of
Capital stands on the side of the mercantilist, rather than Ricardo or
Bailey. By criticizing both Ricardo and Bailey on such a premise, his
critique elucidated a form that constitutes the commodity economy.
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 6
In other words, what Marx focused on was not the objects them-
selves but the relational system in which the objects are placed.
According to Marx, if gold becomes money, that is not because of
its immanent material characteristics, but because it is placed in the
value form. The value form—consisting of relative value form and
equivalent form—makes an object that is placed in it money.
Anything—anything—that is exclusively placed in the general equiva-
lent form becomes money; that is, it achieves the right to attain any-
thing in exchange (i.e., its owner can attain anything in exchange).
People consider a certain thing (i.e., gold) as sublime, only because
it fills the spot of general equivalent. Crucially, Marx begins his re-
flections on capital with the miser, the one who hoards the right to
exchange—in the strict sense, the right to stand in the position of
equivalent form—at the expense of use. The desire for money or the
right to exchange is different from the desire for commodities them-
selves. I would call this ‘drive [Trieb]’ in the Freudian sense, to distin-
guish it from ‘desire’. To put it another way, the drive of a miser is
not to own an object, but to stand in the position of equivalent form,
even at the expense of the object. The drive is metaphysical in
nature; the misers’ goal is to ‘accumulate riches in heaven’, as it were.
One tends to scorn the drive of the miser. But capital’s drive to ac-
cumulate is essentially the same. Capitalists are nothing but “rational
misers” to use Marx’s term. Buying a commodity from someone
somewhere and selling it to anyone anywhere, capitalists seek to re-
produce and expand their position to exchange, and the purpose is
not to attain many ‘uses’. That is to say that the motive drive of
capitalism is not in people’s desire. Rather, it is the reverse; for the
purpose of attaining the right to exchange, capital has to create peo-
ple’s desire. This drive of hoarding the right to exchange originates
in the precariousness inherent in exchange among others.
Historical materialists aim to describe how the relationships be-
tween nature and humans as well as among humans themselves
transformed/developed throughout history. What is lacking in this
endeavor is any reflection upon the capitalist economy that orga-
nizes the transformation/development. And to this end, one must
take into consideration the dimension of exchange, and why the ex-
change inexorably takes the form of value. Physiocrats and classical
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 7
economists had the conviction that they could see all aspects of so-
cial relations transparently from the vantage point of production.
The social exchange, however, is consistently opaque and thus ap-
pears as an autonomous force which we can hardly abolish. Engels’s
conviction that we should control the anarchic drive of capitalist
production and transform it into a planned economy was little more
than an extension of classical economists’ thought. And Engels’s
stance was, of course, the source of centralist communism.
One of the most crucial transpositions/breaks in Marx’s theory of
value form lies in its attention to use value or the process of circula-
tion. Say a certain thing becomes valuable only when it has use value
to other people; a certain thing—no matter how much labor time is
required to make it—has no value if not sold. Marx technically abol-
ished the conventional division between exchange value and use
value. No commodity contains exchange value as such. If it fails to
relate to others, it will be a victim of “sickness unto death” in the
sense of Kierkegaard. Classical economists believe that a commodity
is a synthesis between use value and exchange value. But this is only
an ex post facto recognition. Lurking behind this synthesis as event
is a “fatal leap [salto mortale].” Kierkegaard saw the human being as a
synthesis between finity and infinity, reminding us that what is at
stake in this synthesis is inevitably ‘faith’. In commodity exchange,
the equivalent religious moment appears as ‘credit’. Credit, the treaty
of presuming that a commodity can be sold in advance, is an institu-
tionalization of postponing the critical moment of selling a com-
modity. And the commodity economy, constructed as it is upon
credit, inevitably nurtures crisis.
Classical economics saw all economic phenomena from the van-
tage point of production, and insisted that it had managed to demys-
tify everything (other than production) by reasoning that it was all
secondary and illusory. As a result, it is mastered by the circulation
and credit that it believes itself to have demystified, and thus it can
never elucidate why crisis occurs. Crisis is the appearance of the crit-
ical moment inherent in the commodity economy, and as such it
functions as the most radical critique of the political economy. In
this light, it may be said that pronounced parallax brought by
crisis led Marx to Capital.
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In the preface to the second edition of Capital, Marx “openly avowed
[himself] to be the pupil of that mighty thinker” Hegel.
In fact, Marx
sought to describe the capitalist economy as if it were a self-realization
of capital qua the Hegelian Spirit. Notwithstanding the Hegelian de-
scriptive style, however, Capital distinguishes itself from Hegel’s philos-
ophy in its motivation. The end of Capital is never the “absolute Spirit.”
Capital reveals the fact that capital, though organizing the world, can
never go beyond its own limit. It is a Kantian critique of the ill-
contained drive of capital/reason to self-realize beyond its limit.
And all the enigmas of capital’s drive are inscribed in the theory
of value form. The theory of value form is not a historical reflection
that follows exchange from barter to the formation of money. Value
form is a kind of form that people are not aware of when they are
placed within the monetary economy; this is the form that is discov-
ered only transcendentally. In the reverse of his descriptive order—
from form of value, money form to miser to merchant capital to
industrial capital—one has to read Marx’s retrospective query from
the latter to the former. Classical economists rebuked the businesses
of bullionists, mercantilists, and merchant capitalists of the previous
age and denounced their economic role. They argued that while
they earn profit from the difference of unequal exchange, industrial
capital makes money from fair, equal exchange: it derives profit
from the division of labor and cooperative work. In contrast, Marx
thought of capital by returning to the model of merchant capital.
He saw capital in the general formula: Money-Commodity-MoneyЈ.
This is to see capital essentially as merchant capital. Capital under
this light is a self-increasing, self-reproductive money. This is the
movement M-C-MЈ itself. The case of industrial capital—which is
usually considered to be totally different—differs only in that the
role of C is a complex that consists of raw material, means of pro-
duction, and labor-power commodity. And this last, labor-power
commodity, is truly inherent in industrial capital. For industrial capi-
tal earns surplus value not only by making workers work, but also by
making them buy back—in totality—what they produce.
Classical economists’ claim that merchant capital (or mercantil-
ism) conducts unequal exchange misses the point. The fact is, when
merchant capital attains surplus value from the exchange between
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 9
different value systems, each trade—either M-C or C-M—is strictly
based upon equal exchange. Merchant capital attains surplus value
from spatial difference. Meanwhile, industrial capital attains surplus
value by incessantly producing new value systems temporally—that is,
with technological innovation. This categorical division does not
prevent industrial capital from attaining surplus value from the ac-
tivity of merchant capital. Whatever the kind, capital is not choosy in
how it attains surplus value; it always attains surplus value from the
difference of value systems by equal exchange within each deal. But,
one of the points I want to pose is that how surplus value is earned—in
contrast to how profit is earned—is strictly invisible, and the whole
mechanism remains in a black box, as it were. Thus invisibility is also
a condition for the struggle within the process of circulation.
It is troubling that many Marxists posit surplus value only in the
‘exploitation’ of the production process rather than in the differ-
ences between value systems. These Marxists see the relationship be-
tween capitalists and wage workers as a (disguised) extension of that
between feudal lord and serfs and they believe that this was Marx’s
idea. But it originated in the Ricardian Socialists, who drew from
Ricardo’s theory of profit the idea that profit making is equal to the
exploitation of surplus labor. This became the central theory of the
English labor movement in the early nineteenth century. Though it
is true that Marx himself said a similar thing time and again and it
may entertain a vulgar ear, it should be distinguished from that as-
pect of Marx that actually elucidated the enigma of surplus value.
The best it can do is to explain absolute surplus value (achieved by
the elongation of the labor day), but not relative surplus value
(achieved by the improvement of labor productivity)—the particu-
lar characteristic of industrial capitalism. What is more, seeing the
relationship between capitalist and wage worker in comparison with
the relationship between feudal lord and serf is seriously misleading:
first, it results in envisioning the abolishment of the capitalist econ-
omy from the vantage point of the master/slave dialectic; and sec-
ond, it leads to centralizing the struggle in production process by
ignoring the circulation process.
The Marx of Capital, in contrast, stresses the priority of the circula-
tion process. In the manner of Kant, Marx points out an antinomy: He
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 10
says, on the one hand, that surplus value (for industrial capital) can-
not be attained in the process of production in itself, and, on the
other hand, that it cannot be attained in the process of circulation
in itself. Hence, “Hic Rhodus, hic salta!” Nevertheless, this antinomy
can be undone, that is, only by proposing that the surplus value (for
industrial capital) comes from the difference of value systems in the
circulation process (like in merchant capital), and yet that the differ-
ence is created by technological innovation in the production process.
Capital has to discover and create the difference incessantly. This is
the driving force for the endless technological innovation in indus-
trial capitalism; it is not that the productionism comes from people’s
hope for the progress of civilization as such. It is widely believed that
the development of the capitalist economy is caused by our material
desires and faith in progress; so it is that it would always seem possi-
ble to change our mentality and begin to control the reckless devel-
opment rationally; and further, it would seem possible to abolish
capitalism itself, when we wish. The drive of capitalism, however,
is deeply inscribed in our society and culture; or more to the
point, our society and culture are created by it; it will never stop by
itself. Neither will it be stopped by any rational control or by state
Marx’s Capital does not reveal the necessity of revolution. As the
Japanese Marxian political economist, Kozo Uno (1897–1977)
pointed out, it only presents the necessity of crisis.
And crisis, even
though it is the peculiar illness of the capitalist economy, is the cata-
lyst for its incessant development; it is part of the whole mechanism.
The capitalist economy cannot eradicate the plague, yet neither will
it perish because of it. Environmentalists warn that the capitalist
economy will cause unprecedented disasters in the future, yet it is
not that these disasters will terminate the capitalist economy. Also, it
is impossible that capitalism will collapse by the reverse dynamic,
when, in the future, commodification is pushed to its limit—it is
impossible that it would die a natural death.
Finally, the only solution most of us can imagine today is state reg-
ulation of capital’s reckless movement. But we should take notice
of the fact that the state, like capital, is driven by its own certain
autonomous power—which won’t be dissolved by the globalization of
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 11
capitalism. This autonomy should nevertheless be understood in dis-
tinction from the sense of historical materialism’s doctrine that state
and nation assume superstructure in relationship with economic
base; they are relatively autonomous to, though determined by, it.
First of all, as I have suggested, the very notion that the capitalist
economy is base or infrastructure is itself questionable. As I have
tried to elucidate in the book, the world organized by money and
credit is rather one of illusion, with a peculiarly religious nature.
Saying this from the opposite view, even though state and nation are
composed by communal illusion, precisely like capitalism, they in-
evitably exist thanks to their necessary grounds. Simply put, they are
founded on exchanges that are different from the commodity ex-
change. So it is that no matter how many times one stresses their na-
ture of being “imagined communities,”
it is impossible to dissolve
them. As young Marx pointed out vis-à-vis another bind: “To abolish
religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand the real
happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing state
of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions.
The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale
of tears, the halo of which is religion.”
The same can be said of state
and nation.
After reflecting upon “value form,” the Marx of Capital seems
to explicate the historical genesis of commodity exchange in the
chapter “Process of Exchange.” There he stresses that it began
in between communities: “The exchange of commodities begins
where communities have their boundaries, at their points of contact
with other communities, or with members of the latter. However, as
soon as products have become commodities in the external relations
of a community, they also, by reaction, become commodities in the
internal life of the community.”
Despite its appearance, this depic-
tion is not strictly of a historical situation, but the form of exchange
that is discovered and stipulated only by a transcendental retrospec-
tion. Furthermore, Marx’s statement, which I quoted earlier, is in
fact based upon the premise that there are other forms of exchange.
Commodity exchange is a peculiar form of exchange among other
exchanges. First, there is exchange within a community—a reciproc-
ity of gift and return. Though based upon mutual aid, it also
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 12
imposes the community’s code—if one does not return, one will be
ostracized—and exclusivity. Second, the original exchange between
communities is plunder. And rather it is this plunder that is the basis
for other exchanges: For instance, commodity exchange begins only
at the point where mutual plunder is given up. In this sense, plun-
der is deemed a type of exchange. For instance, in order to plunder
continuously, it is necessary to protect the plundered from other
plunderers, and even nurture economico-industrial growth. This is
the prototype of the state. In order to keep on robbing, and robbing
more and more, the state guarantees the protection of land and the
reproduction of labor power by redistribution. It also promotes agri-
cultural production by public undertakings such as regulating water
distribution through public water works. It follows that the state
does not appear to be abetting a system of robbery: Farmers think of
paying tax as a return (duty) for the protection of the lord; mer-
chants pay tax as a return for the protection of their exchange and
commerce. Finally, the state is represented as a supra-class entity of
Plunder and redistribution are thus forms of exchange. Inasmuch
as human social relations entail the potential of violence, these
forms are inevitably present. And the third form is what Marx calls
the commodity exchange between communities. As I analyze in de-
tail in the book, this exchange engenders surplus value or capital,
though with mutual consent; and it is definitively different from the
exchange of plunder/redistribution. Furthermore, and this is the
final question of this book, a fourth kind of exchange exists: associa-
tion. This is a form of mutual aid, yet neither exclusive nor coercive
like community. Associationism can be considered as an ethico-
economic form of human relation that can appear only after a soci-
ety once passes through the capitalist market economy. It is thought
that Proudhon was the first to have theorized it; according to my
reading, however, Kant’s ethics already contained it.
In his famous book, Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson said
that the nation-state is a marriage between nation and state that
were originally different in kind. This was certainly an important
suggestion. Yet it should not be forgotten that there was another
marriage between two entities that were totally heterogeneous—the
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 13
marriage between state and capital. In the feudal ages, state, capital,
and nation were clearly separated. They existed distinctively as feu-
dal states (lords, kings, and emperors), cities, and agrarian commu-
nities, all based upon different principles of exchange. States were
based upon the principle of plunder and redistribution. The agrar-
ian communities that were mutually disconnected and isolated were
dominated by states; but, within themselves, they were autonomous,
based upon the principle of mutual aid and reciprocal exchange.
Between these communities, markets or cities grew; these were
based upon monetary exchange relying on mutual consent. What
crumbled the feudal system was the total osmosis of the capitalist
market economy. But the economic process was realized only in the
political form, of the absolutist monarchy. The absolutist monarchi-
cal states conspired with the merchant class, monopolized the
means of violence by toppling feudal lords (aristocracy), and finally
abolished feudal domination (extra-economic domination) entirely.
This was the very story of the wedding between state and capital.
Protected by the absolutist state, merchant capital (bourgeoisie)
grew up and nurtured the identity of the nation for the sake of cre-
ating a unified market. Yet this was not all in terms of the formation
of the nation. The agrarian communities, that were decomposed
along with the permeation of the market economy and by the ur-
banized culture of enlightenment, had always existed on the founda-
tion of the nation. While individual agrarian communities that had
been autarkic and autonomous were decomposed by the osmosis of
money, their communalities—mutual aid and reciprocity—themselves
were recovered imaginarily within the nation. In contradistinction
from what Hegel called the state of understanding (lacking spirit),
or the Hobbesian state, the nation is grounded upon the empathy of
mutual aid descending from agrarian communities. And this emo-
tion consists of a feeling of indebtedness toward the gift, indicating
that it comes out of the relation of exchange.
It was amid the bourgeois revolution that these three were legally
married. As in the trinity intoned in the French Revolution—liberty,
equality, and fraternity—capital, state, and nation copulated and
amalgamated themselves into a force forever after inseparable.
Hence to be strict the modern state must be called the capitalist
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 14
nation-state. They were made to be mutually complementary, rein-
forcing each other. When economic liberty becomes excessive and
class conflict is sharpened, the state intervenes to redistribute wealth
and regulate the economy, and at the same time, the emotion of
national unity (mutual aid) fills up the cracks. When facing this fear-
less trinity, undermining one or the other does not work. If one at-
tempts to overthrow capitalism alone, one has to adapt statism, or
one is engulfed by nationalist empathy. It goes without saying that
the former appeared as Stalinism and the latter as fascism. Seeing
capitalist commodity exchange, nation, and state as forms of
exchange is possible only from an economic stance. If the concept of
economic infrastructure has significance, it is only in this sense.
In the modern period, among the three principles of exchange, it
was the commodity exchange that expanded and overpowered the
others. Inasmuch as it operated within the trinity, however, it is im-
possible that the capitalist commodity exchange could monopolize
the whole of human relationality. With respect to the reproduction
of humans and nature, capital has no choice but to rely on the fam-
ily and agrarian community; in this sense capital is essentially depen-
dent upon the precapitalist mode of production. Herein exists the
ground of the nation. On the other hand, while absolutist monarchs
disappeared by bourgeois revolutions, the state itself has remained.
The state can never be dissolved and subsumed into the representa-
tives of national sovereignty (i.e., government). For the state, no
matter what kind, always exists as the bare sovereign vis-à-vis other
states (if not always to its nation); in crises (wars), a powerful leader
(the subject of determination) is always called for, as evidenced in
Bonapartism and fascism.
One frequently hears today that the nation-state will be gradually
decomposed by the globalization of capitalism (neo-liberalism).
This is impossible. When individual national economies are threat-
ened by the global market, they demand the protection (redistribu-
tion) of the state and/or bloc economy, at the same time as
appealing to national cultural identity. So it is that any counterac-
tion to capital must also be one targeted against the state and nation
(community). The capitalist nation-state is fearless because of its
makeup. The denial of one ends up being reabsorbed into the ring
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 15
of the trinity by the power of the other two. Countermovements in
the past, such as corporatism, welfare society, and social democracy,
resulted in the perfection of the ring rather than its abolition.
Marx thought that the socialist revolution would be possible only
in the most advanced country, England, because socialism was sup-
posed to be possible only in the stage where bourgeois society was
fully ripe, ripe enough to decompose. Nonetheless, in reality it
could not have seemed less likely to him that it would occur. In the
particular situation where universal suffrage was installed and labor
unions strengthened, revolution seemed like it had receded even
farther into the distance. What really receded, however, was the rev-
olution that was imagined from the vantage point of and as an ex-
tension of bourgeois revolution; the fact was that from that juncture
on, a different kind of revolution came to be called for. One should
not forget that it was under such circumstances that Marx came
to grips with the task of writing Capital. His recognition that a criti-
cism of capitalism would no longer suffice made him write such a
monumental piece.
After Marx’s death, as the social democratic party in Germany
made remarkable advances, Engels came to abandon the classical
concept of violent revolution and believe in the possibility of revolu-
tion via parliamentary means. This was the path to social democracy,
in which the state manages the capitalist economy and redistributes
the wealth to the working class. Next, Engels’s disciple Bernstein
eliminated the last dregs of the “revolution” fantasy that were still
present in Engels. Meanwhile, Marxism was established along the
line of Leninism, which rejects such visions of social democracy.
However, at the end of the twentieth century, the left has ultimately
returned to Bernstein’s way of thinking. Clearly, this is to completely
lose sight of the critical need to supersede (aufheben) the capitalist
nation-state. In World War I, social democrats not only failed to pre-
vent the war, but also got involved in the frenzy of nationalism. And
it is quite possible that they will repeat the same faux pas in the fu-
ture. Yet, as all of us know well by now, Leninism cannot replace it.
Is there an alternative? I would posit that it can be found in Capital,
the book Marx wrote as he deliberately remained in England where
the possibility of classical revolution was fading away. As I have
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explained, the trinity of capital, nation, and state is rooted in the
necessary forms that human exchange could assume, and therefore,
it is nearly impossible to get out of the ring. Marx in Capital,
however, discovered an exit, the fourth type of exchange: association.
The Marxists of the late nineteenth century overlooked the com-
munism of later Marx, the idea that an association of associations
would replace the Capital-Nation-State. In The Civil War in France—
written as an address to the general council of the international
working men’s association—Marx wrote: “If united co-operative soci-
eties are to regulate national production upon a common plan, thus
taking it under their own control, and putting an end to the con-
stant anarchy and periodical convulsions which are the fatality of
capitalist production—what else, gentlemen, would it be but Com-
munism, ‘possible’ Communism?”
The association of producers’/
consumers’ cooperatives has been conceptualized and practiced by
socialists since Robert Owen, and by Proudhonist anarchists. In Cap-
ital, too, Marx considers cooperatives in comparison with stock com-
panies and highly appreciates them: While stock companies are only
passive abolition [aufhebung] of the capitalist system, the positive
abolition is discovered in the cooperative of which stockholders are
workers themselves.
But Marx saw their limits as well. They are des-
tined either to fail in the fierce competition with capital, or to turn
themselves into stock companies. For this reason, both Lenin and
Engels ignored them or, at best, marginalized them as subordinate
to labor movements. On the other hand, and notwithstanding
the limits, it was precisely in them that Marx saw the possibility of
Bakunin attacked Marx as a centralist thinker by associating him
with the state socialist Lassalle. He either did not know or ignored
the fact that Marx was critical of Lassalle’s direction (the Gotha Pro-
gramme) to have the state protect and foster cooperative produc-
tion. Marx was clear: “That the workers desire to establish the
conditions for co-operative production on a social scale, and first of
all on a national scale, in their own country, only means that they
are working to transform the present conditions of production, and
it has nothing in common with the foundation of co-operative soci-
eties with state aid. But as far as the present co-operative societies
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 17
are concerned, they are of value only insofar as they are the indepen-
dent creations of the workers and not protégés either of the govern-
ment or of the bourgeois.”
In other words, Marx is stressing that
the association of cooperatives itself must take over the leadership
from the state, in the place of state-led cooperative movements,
whereby capital and state will wither away. And this kind of proposi-
tion of principle aside, Marx never said anything in particular about
future prospects.
All in all, communism for Marx was nothing but associationism, but
inasmuch as it was so, he had to forge it by critiquing. Marx’s thinking
fell between that of Lassalle and Bakunin. This oscillation allowed
later generations to draw either stance from Marx’s thought. But what
we should see here is less contradiction or ambiguity than Marx’s
transcritique. What was clear to Marx was that it is impossible to
counter the autonomous powers of the trinity by simply denouncing
them. Based as they are upon certain necessities, they have au-
tonomous powers. In other words, functioning as they are as transcen-
dental apperception, not only are they irresolvable but also even
revive stronger. To finally abolish the trinity, a deep scrutiny into (and
critique of) them is required. Where can we find the clue to form the
countermovement? This, I believe, is in the theory of value form in
Capital. In the preface, Marx clarified his stance as follows:
To prevent possible misunderstandings, let me say this. I do not by any
means depict the capitalist and landowner in rosy colors. But individuals
are dealt with here only in so far as they are the personifications of
economic categories, the bearers [Träger] of particular class-relations and
interests. My standpoint, from which the development of the economic for-
mation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any
other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he re-
mains, socially speaking, however much he may subjectively raise himself
above them.
The “economic categories” mentioned here signify the forms of
value. Who are capitalists and proletariats is determined by where
the individuals are placed: in either relative form of value or equiva-
lent form. This is totally irrespective of what they think. This struc-
turalist view was a necessity. Here Marx did not suffice with simply
accusing capitalism of immorality; this is the essence of Marxian
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 18
ethics. In Capital, there is no subjectivity. Even capitalists—especially
those in stock companies—are agents of capital’s movement, but
not subjects. The same is true of workers. So it is that people either
read in Capital the (natural historical) law of history whereby a capi-
talist society gradually yet apodictically turns into a communist soci-
ety, or sought motives of revolutionary acts in pre-Capital texts. As is
evident, however, neither method worked. Concerning the former,
it is totally impossible to assume that capitalism will end autotel-
ically. In principle there cannot be a telos as such in natural history.
Concerning the latter, what was discovered in those texts was, more
or less, subsumed into a narrative of the Hegelian dialectic of master
and slave: that is, proletariat qua slave will finally rebel against bour-
geoisie qua master at the extremity of alienation and impoverish-
ment. In this narrative, a workers’ rebellion is supposed to take
place in the production process as a general strike, and this would
lead to their seizure of state power. I cannot believe that Marx’s posi-
tion at the time of writing Capital was such. If Capital has been rather
shunned by Marxists themselves, it is more because of the difficulty
in finding a prospect of revolution therein. And the new revolution
would have to be different from those which could happen in vari-
ous places of the world outside England and North America. Then,
how is a revolution possible in the world where there seems to be no
moment for subjective intervention to appear?
The fact that in value form place determines the nature of the
subject who occupies it nevertheless does not prevent capitalists
from being subjective. Since capital itself is the subject of a self-
reproductive movement, the agents—capitalists—can be active, and
this activity is precisely that of money or the position of purchaser
(the equivalent form). On the other hand, those who sell the labor-
power commodity—workers—have no other choice but to be pas-
sive. In this relationality, it is only natural that they can only engage
in an economic struggle wherein they negotiate with capitalists over
their own commodity price. It is absolutely impossible to expect
workers to stand up under such conditions. If this has occurred his-
torically, it has been thanks to social chaos resulting from war, or a
situation where employers were particularly villainous. But it is
not that workers resistance against capital is totally hopeless. The
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 19
movement of capital M-C-MЈ—namely, the realization of surplus
value—is dependent upon whether or not products are sold. And
surplus value is realized in principle only by workers in totality buy-
ing back what they produce. In the production process, the relation-
ship between capitalist and workers is certainly like that between
master and slaves. But the process of capital’s metamorphosis (or
transubstantiation) is not so one-dimensional as to be defined by
that. Because at the end of the cycle, capital, too, has to stand in the
position of selling (the relative form of value), and it is precisely at
this moment and this moment only that workers are in the subjec-
tive position. This is the place where the commodities of capitalist
production are sold—the place of consumption. This is the only place
where workers in totality with purchasing power are in the buying
position. Marx articulated this: “What precisely distinguishes capital
from the master-slave relation is that the worker confronts him as
consumer and possessor of exchange values, and that in the form of
the possessor of money, in the form of money he becomes a simple cen-
ter of circulation—one of its infinitely many centers, in which his
specificity as worker is extinguished.”
For capital, consumption is
the place where surplus value is finally realized, and for this objec-
tive precisely, the only place where it is subordinated to the will of
In the monetary economy, buying and selling as well as produc-
tion and consumption are separated. This introduces a split in the
workers’ subject: as workers (the sellers of labor-power commodity)
and consumers (the buyers of capitalist commodities). In conse-
quence, it comes to appear as if corporations and consumers were
the only subjects of economic activities. It also segregates the labor
and consumers’ movements. In recent history, while labor move-
ments have been stagnant, consumers’ movements have flourished,
often incorporating issues of environmental protection, feminism,
and minorities. Generally, they take the form of civil acts, and are
not connected to, or are sometimes even antagonistic to, the labor
movement. After all, though, consumers’ movements are laborers’
movements in transposition, and are important only inasmuch as they
are so. Conversely, the labor movement could go beyond the bounds
of its ‘specificity’ and become universal inasmuch as it self-consciously
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 20
acts as a consumers’ movement. For, in fact, the process of con-
sumption as a reproduction of labor-power commodity covers a
whole range of fronts of our life-world, including child care, educa-
tion, leisure, and community activities. But what is at stake here is
obviously related to, yet clearly different from, the process of repro-
duction in the sense of Gramsci: the cultural ideological apparati
such as family, school, church, and so forth. In this context, it is first
and foremost the process of the reproduction of labor-power as a
topos of ordeal for capital’s self-realization, and hence the position
in which workers can finally be the subject.
Marxists failed to grasp the transcritical moment where workers
and consumers intersect. And in this sense, the anarcho-sandicalists,
who opposed them, were the same. They both saw the specific class
relation in the capitalist economy (capitalist and wage workers) as a
version of that of feudal lord and serfs. They both believed that what
had been evident in the feudal system came to be veiled under the
capitalist commodity economy; therefore, the workers are supposed
to stand up and overthrow the capitalist system according to the di-
alectic of master and slave. But in reality, workers do not stand up at
all, because, they believe, the workers’ consciousness is reified by the
commodity economy, and their task as the vanguard is to awaken
workers from the daydream. They believe that the reification is caused
by the seduction of consumerist society and/or manipulation by cul-
tural hegemony. Thus, to begin with, what they should and can do is
to critically elucidate the mechanism. Or to say it outright, that is
the only business left for them today. What Fredric Jameson calls “the
cultural turn” is a form of ‘despair’ inherent in the Marxist practice.
There are various forms of the despair, but they are, more or less, all
the result of production-process centrism.
What about civil acts that overlap the consumption front? In keep-
ing a distance from labor movements, they lack a penetrating stance
toward the capitalist relation of production. They tend to be ab-
sorbed into the social democracy that, approving the market econ-
omy, seeks to correct its shortcomings through state regulations as
well as redistribution of wealth.
I said that Marx of Capital did not present an easy way out of capi-
talism. But, from the beginning, there is no way for Capital, the
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 21
scrutiny of money that transforms into capital, to present a direct
procedure for abolishing/sublating it. The Marxists after Engels,
who read the theory of value form merely as an introduction, did
not develop any account of money themselves. They imagined that
the state regulation and planned economy would abolish the capital-
ist market economy, brushing aside the fact that abolishing the
market economy would be equal to abolishing free exchanges of in-
dividuals. Their stance was based totally on the labor theory of value
(of classical economics), that is, their vision totally belonged to the
domain of the value system of capitalist economy. From this stance,
the best we got was the vision of a society where everyone gets what
he or she earns. They were blinded to the autonomous dimension of
money that Marx tackled in Capital. As I have said, money is not
merely a denominator of value, but a mediating function through
which all individual commodities are exchanged, and through
which the value-relation among all commodities is constantly ad-
justed and readjusted. For this precise reason, money exists as an or-
ganizer of the system of commodities, namely, a transcendental
apperception X of human exchange. Certainly in the everyday market
economy, money qua illusion is hypostatized. Due to fetishism, the
movement of capital occurs as an auto-multiplication of money. Bour-
geois economists stress the superiority of the market economy by
veiling the aspect of capital’s movement. Yet one cannot abandon
the market economy in general. It would result in a total loss. And
again, there is no prospect of abolishing capital and state in social
democracy that acknowledges but controls the capitalist market
The ultimate conclusion of Capital is the antinomy: money should
exist; money should not exist. To supersede (aufheben) money equals
the creation of a money that would fulfill the conflicting conditions.
Marx said nothing about this possible money. All he did was critique
Proudhon’s ideas of labor money and exchange bank. Proudhon,
too, was based upon the labor theory of value; he sought to make a
currency that purely valorizes labor time. Here there was a blind
spot: Labor value is conditioned by the social exchanges via money; it
is formed as value only after the fact of the exchange. That is to say,
the social labor time qua substance of value is formed via money,
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 22
which thus cannot replace money. Labor money would tacitly rely
on the existing monetary economy; even if it tried to challenge the
existing system, it would just be exchanged with the existing money
for the difference in price with the market value. What it could do at
best would be to neutralize money.
Having this antinomy in mind, the most exciting example to me is
LETS (Local Exchange Trading System), devised and practiced by
Michael Linton since 1982. It is a multifaceted system of settlement
where participants have their own accounts, register the wealth and
service that they can offer in the inventory, conduct exchanges
freely, and then the results are recorded in their accounts. In con-
trast to the currency of the state central bank, the currency of LETS
is issued each time by those who receive the wealth or service from
other participants. And it is so organized that the sum total of the
gains and losses of everyone is zero. In this simple system exists a
clue to solving the antinomy of money.
When compared to the exchange of mutual aid in traditional com-
munities and that of the capitalist commodity economy, the nature of
LETS becomes clear. It is, on the one hand, similar to the system of
mutual aid in the aspect that it does not impose high prices with high
interest, but, on the other hand, closer to the market in that the ex-
change can occur between those who are mutually far apart and
strangers. In contrast to the capitalist market economy, in LETS,
money does not transform into capital, not simply because there is no
interest, but because it is based upon the zero sum principle. It is orga-
nized so that, although exchanges occur actively, ‘money’ does not
exist as a result. Therefore, the antinomy—money should exist and
money should not exist—is solved. Speaking in the context of Marx’s
theory of value form, the currency of LETS is a general equivalent,
which however just connects all the wealth and services and does not
become an autonomous entity. The fetish of money does not occur. In
LETS, there is no need to accumulate money as the potency of ex-
changes, nor is there worry about an increase of losses. The system of
value-relation among wealth and services is generated via the curren-
cies of LETS, but the wealth and services are not unconditionally com-
mensurable, as in state currencies. Finally, among them, labor value as
“the common essence” would not be established ex post facto.
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 23
LETS is neither simply economic nor simply ethical. It creates an
economico-ethical association. While the mutual aid in traditional
communities compels fidelity to them, and the market economies
compel the belonging to the communities of currencies (states), the
social contract in LETS is like Proudhon’s “association.” Individuals
can quit a particular LETS and belong to another LETS anytime. Un-
like the currency of a state, the currency of LETS is really currencies—
it is a multiplicity. More important, in contrast to other local
currencies, LETS offers each participant the right to issue his or her
own currency (simply by the act of registering/recording in an ac-
count). To say that one aspect of the sovereignty of the state exists in
the right to issue currency means that LETS actually offers sover-
eignty to the multitudes, going far beyond the specious motto ‘sov-
ereignty resides in the people.’ Therefore, the potency of LETS is
not just to protect and stimulate the local economy. It engenders an
association that entails principles of exchange other than those of
the Trinity.
The last crucial aspect of LETS is that it is formed in the circula-
tion process, where consumers hold the initiative. While conven-
tional cooperatives of producers as well as consumers tend to falter
in the hopeless competition with full-hearted capitalist enterprises,
LETS could nurture the free, autonomous subjectivity of consumers-
as-workers. Only when LETS and the financial system based upon it
expand, it should be said, can the noncapitalist producers’ and con-
cumers’ cooperatives autonomously exist. But, in terms of strategy,
LETS itself cannot terminate capital’s auto-multiplying movement.
It would remain as partial, complementary to the market economy,
no matter how popular it would become. For this reason, what is
required—aside from the movement that seeks to ex-scendent
italist economy like LETS—is the struggle remaining within the capi-
talist economy. Where can they be united? It goes without saying
that it is in the position where workers appear as consumers,
namely, at the front of circulation.
In the movement of capital M-C-MЈ, capital has to confront two
critical moments: buying labor-power commodity and selling prod-
ucts to workers. Failure in either moment disables capital from
achieving surplus value. In other words, it fails to be capital. That is
6715 INTRO UG 1/29/03 7:42 PM Page 24
to say that in these moments workers can counter capital. The first
moment is expressed by Antonio Negri as “Don’t Work!” This really
signifies, in our context, “Don’t Sell Your Labor-Power Commodity!”
or “Don’t Work as a Wage Laborer!” The second moment says, like
Mahatma Gandhi, “Don’t Buy Capitalist Products!” Both of them
can occur in the position in which workers can be the subject. But in
order for workers/consumers to be able ‘not to work’ and ‘not to
buy’, there must be a safety net whereupon they can still work and
buy to live. This is the very struggle without the capitalist mode of pro-
duction: the association consisting of the producers’/consumers’ co-
operatives and LETS. The struggle within inexorably requires these
cooperatives and LETS as an extra-capitalist mode of production/
consumption; and furthermore, this can accelerate the reorganiza-
tion of capitalist corporation into cooperative entity. The struggle
immanent in and the one ex-scendent to the capitalist mode of pro-
duction/consumption are combined only in the circulation process,
the topos of consumers ϭworkers. For it is only there that the mo-
ment for individuals to become subject exists. Association cannot
exist without the subjective interventions of individuals, and such is
possible only having the circulation process as an axis.
Karl Polanyi likened capitalism (the market economy) to cancer.
Coming into existence in the interstice between agrarian communi-
ties and feudal states, capitalism invaded the internal cells and trans-
formed their predispositions according to its own physiology. If so,
the transnational network of workers qua consumers and consumers
qua workers is a culture of anticancer cells, as it were. In order to
eliminate capital, it is imperative to eliminate the conditions by
which it was produced in the first place. The counteractions against
capitalism within and without, having their base in the circulation
front, are totally legal and nonviolent; none of the three can inter-
rupt them. According to my reading, Marx’s Capital offers a logical
ground for the creation of this culture/movement. That is, the
asymmetric relationship inherent in the value form (between com-
modity and money) produces capital, and it is also here where the
transpositional moments that terminate capital can be grasped. And
it is the task of transcriticism to make full use of these moments.
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The Kantian Turn
1.1 The Copernican Turn
When Kant called his new project in Critique of Pure Reason the
“Copernican turn,” he was alluding to his own inversion of the
subject/object hierarchy: while pre-Kantian metaphysics had main-
tained that the subject copies the external object, Kant proposed
that objects are constituted by the form that the subject projects into the
external world. In this sense, the Kantian turn is obviously a shift to-
ward subject-centrism (or anthropocentrism), while the turn known
by the name of Copernicus tends toward the opposite: the shift from
geocentrism to heliocentrism—a negation of the stance that is earth-
centered (identifiable as ego-centered). Did Kant ignore the turn in
the latter sense? No, I think not. It is my contention that in his con-
stellation of thought surrounding the “thing-in-itself” and/or “tran-
scendental object,” he was echoing this very essence of the
Copernican turn, especially in stressing the passivity of subject in
relation with the external, objective world.
Kant wrote in Critique of Pure Reason:
The sensible faculty of intuition is really only a receptivity for being affected
in a certain way with representations, whose relation to one another is a
pure intuition of space and time (pure forms of our sensibility), which, in-
sofar as they are connected and determinable in these relations (in space
and time) according to laws of the unity of experience, are called object.
The non-sensible cause of these representations is entirely unknown to us,
6715 CH01 UG 1/29/03 7:44 PM Page 29
and therefore we cannot intuit it as an object; for such an object would
have to be represented neither in space nor in time (as mere conditions of
our sensible representation), without which conditions we cannot think any
intuition. Meanwhile we can call the merely intelligible cause of appear-
ances in general the transcendental object, merely so that we may have
something corresponding to sensibility as a receptivity. To this transcenden-
tal object we can ascribe the whole extent and connection of our possible
perceptions, and say that it is given in itself prior to all experience. But ap-
pearances are, in accordance with it, given not in themselves but only in
this experience, because they are merely representations, which signify a
real object only as perceptions, namely when this perception connects up
with all others in accordance with the rules of the unity of experience.
The central concern in this passage is the ‘thing’, which, prior to
our act of constituting objects, affects the subject by means of sensi-
bility and provides it with its contents—what appears to be the
world. In other words, Kant stresses the passivity or Geworfenheit
(thrownness) of the subject. All philosophers after Kant except for
Heidegger—even such a faithful Kantian as Schopenhauer—denied
the exterior validity of the concept of the thing-in-itself. As a conse-
quence, Kant came to be mistakenly identified as the founder of the
philosophy of subjectivity—that which insists upon the subject as ac-
tively constituting the world. This interpretation certainly seems to
accord with Kant’s implication in regard to the Copernican turn,
but Kant himself was quick to deny the simple-minded idealism. If
so, what did Kant really seek to do? Did he simply intend to combine
rationalism and empiricism critically?
In order to grasp the Kantian Copernican turn precisely, one first
has to clarify the turn of Copernicus himself. The idea of heliocen-
trism had existed since ancient times, so it was not his invention. But
it was prohibited, and Copernicus was rather hesitant to endorse this
‘new’ cosmological position during his lifetime. According to
Thomas Kuhn, Copernicus basically followed the Ptolemaic cosmol-
ogy even in De Revolutionibus, which was published in 1543, the year
he died; it was only the addendum to the book, the part that only as-
tronomers could decipher, that became influential for the coming
age. His real contribution here was the proposition that the discrep-
ancy among the revolutions of heavenly bodies, which had dogged
geocentricism since Ptolemy, could be solved if and only if we would
6715 CH01 UG 1/29/03 7:44 PM Page 30
The Kantian Turn
see the globe as revolving around the sun. This hypothesis does not
offer positive proof of heliocentrism itself, however, and it took as long
as a century for it to be fully accepted as a cosmological principle.
Nonetheless, even those who still believed in geocentricism had to rely
on the Copernican system of calculation. Although they believed that
the truth was that the sun revolves around the earth, for the sake of cal-
culation they still could think ‘as if ’ the opposite were the case. After
all, the true significance of the Copernican turn lay in the hypothetical
stance itself. In other words, the significance lay not in forcing any
choice between geocentricism or heliocentrism, but rather in grasping
the solar system as a relational structure —using terms such as ‘earth’
and ‘sun’—that is totally independent of empirically observed objects
or events. And only this stance could render the turn toward helio-
centrism. Thus the significance of the Copernican turn was twofold.
In the same manner Kant managed to get around the basic con-
tradiction in the philosophy of his time, whether it was founded in
the empirical senses (as was empiricism) or in rational thinking (as
was rationalism). Instead, Kant introduced those structures—that is,
forms of sensibility or categories of understanding—of which one is
unaware, calling them “transcendental” structures. Words such as
‘sensibility [Sinnlichkeit]’ and ‘understanding [Verstand]’ had long
existed as conceptualizations of life experience: ‘to sense’ and ‘to
understand’. But Kant completely altered their meanings in a way
similar to what Copernicus had done when he rediscovered ‘sun’
and ‘earth’ as terms within the solar system qua reciprocal structure.
But here it is not necessary to reiterate Kant’s terminology. What is
crucial is this architectonic that is called “transcendental.” And even if
these particular words or concepts are not always used in various
post-Kantian contexts, the same architectonic can be found there.
One notable example is psychoanalysis, in which Thomas Kuhn saw
a direct correspondence with the Copernican turn.
Because the Copernican theory is in many respects a typical scientific
theory, its history can illustrate some of the processes by which scientific
concepts evolve and replace their predecessors. In its extrascientific conse-
quences, however, the Copernican theory is not typical: few scientific theories
have played so large a role in nonscientific thought. But neither is it unique.
In the nineteenth century, Darwin’s theory of evolution raised similar
6715 CH01 UG 1/29/03 7:44 PM Page 31
extrascientific questions. In our own century, Einstein’s relativity theories
and Freud’s psychoanalytic theories provide centers for controversies from
which may emerge further radical reorientations of Western thought.
Freud himself emphasized the parallel effects of Copernican discovery that
the earth was merely a planet and his own discovery that the unconscious
controlled much of human behavior.
For that matter, the revolutionary aspect of Freudian psychoanalysis
was not in the idea of the “unconscious controlling much of human
behavior”; as presented as early as in Interpretation of Dreams (and this
idea had existed since antiquity), it was in his attempt to see what ex-
ists in the gap between consciousness and unconscious vis-à-vis the
form of language. In the course of this attempt, he came to extract
the unconscious qua transcendental structure. While stressing the
wide impact of the Copernican turn beyond the domain of the nat-
ural sciences, Kuhn ignored Kant’s own use of the figure. For Kuhn,
too, was bound by the stereotype about Kant, namely, that the Kant-
ian form and category were based on Euclidean geometry and New-
tonian physics. Yet this is simply not true. As I will show later, Kant
was able to conceptualize form with respect to sensibility only be-
cause he had already had a sense of the possibility of a non-
Euclidean geometry. All in all, the crux of Kant’s account of science
was that scientific cognition is an open system, and that any scien-
tific truth can be no more than a hypothesis (qua phenomenon).
But those who identify or criticize Descartes and Kant as subjec-
tivists, automatically posit geocentrism in Kant. Only as long as we
are bound by the stereotype does it appear that Kant was an anthro-
pocentrist (or rationalist), and that, in contrast, Freud posited the
unconscious (like the sun) as the center by overturning the position
that was consciousness-centered (earth-centered).
But Kuhn’s own position cannot even distinguish Freud from
Jung. In fact for him they are one and the same. While collaborating
in his early career with Freud, Jung himself likened the concept of
the Oedipus complex to the “stable point outside of our own sphere
on which an objective understanding of its currents becomes possi-
ble,” comparable to the Copernican revolution.
The importance of this realization should not be underestimated, for it
teaches us that there is an identity of fundamental human conflicts which is
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The Kantian Turn
independent of time and place. What aroused a feeling of horror in the
Greeks still remains true, but it is true for us only if we give up the vain illu-
sion that we are different, i.e., morally better, than the ancients. We have
merely succeeded in forgetting that an indissoluble link binds us to the
men of antiquity. This truth opens the way to an understanding of the clas-
sical spirit such as has never existed before—the way of inner sympathy on
the one hand and of intellectual comprehension on the other. [By making
the detour through the buried substructure of our own souls, we can seize
for ourselves the vital meaning of the culture of antiquity, and by this
means thus gain that stable point outside of our own sphere on which an
objective understanding of its currents becomes possible.] That at least is
the hope we draw from the rediscovery of the immortality of the Oedipus
This manner of emphasizing the “unconscious”—or, more precisely,
the “collective unconscious”—had already become influential in Ro-
manticism, long before Freud and Jung. It was thus not Freud’s
property. In fact, Jung quoted from various Romantic poets and
thinkers to support his claim. On the other hand, Freud opposed
the general notion of “collective unconscious.” Freud’s unconscious
is strictly that which is discovered (or produced) in an analysand’s
“resistance” during the psychoanalytic dialogue. For Freud, there
would be no unconscious if not for resistance [Widerstand] and dis-
avowal [Verleugnung]. He conceptualized the triadic structure of
ego, superego, and id, not as something that exists in empirical real-
ity, but rather as a structural mechanism that is methodologically as-
sumed to exist in resistance and disavowal. As Freud’s figures of the
“judge” of the superego and the “censor” of the superego clearly ex-
press, the triad is structurally similar to a court of law. And, for that
matter, Kant, too, persisted in speaking in judicial terms.
Jung came to break away from Freud in a way very similar to that
in which Herder, Fichte, and Schelling broke away from Kant. Alter-
natively put, Jung belonged to a lineage of Romanticism epitomized
by the same philosophers. Jung’s negation of rationalism certainly
constituted a remarkable revolution, and it is true that, by contrast,
Freud was faithful to the tradition of the Enlightenment insofar as
he retained a rationalistic stance. But it was Freud who finally ren-
dered the truly radical turn, one that is totally irrelevant to the con-
cerns of vulgar Romanticism. Freudian psychoanalysis is as distinct
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from empirical psychology as it is from the collective unconscious. It
is, as he claimed, a metapsychology and, in our context, a “transcen-
dental” psychology. Seen from this perspective, the isomorphism be-
tween the Kantian faculties (of sensibility and understanding) and
the Freudian psychical structure is evident. Both are discoveries of
the transcendental query. That is, as a certain function that can be
spoken of only as figure ; they are functions about which we can only
say that they are at work. And with Lacan, who sought to recover the
Freudian sense of transcendental psychology, the triadic structure
came to be even more ostensibly Kantian: Kantian illusion/Lacanian
imaginary; the form/the symbolic; and the thing-in-itself/the real.
But my objective is not to interpret Kant through Freud, but the
Kant is consistently the target of criticism accusing him to be the
primogenitor of the philosophy of subjectivity. What Kant really did,
however, was to present the boundaries or limits of human subjec-
tive faculties, and in so doing criticize metaphysics as an arrogation
that oversteps those boundaries. Much like Freud’s ‘id, ego, and
superego’, Kant’s ‘sensibility, understanding, and reason’ are not
things that exist empirically. In this sense, indeed, they are nothing;
which, however, is a ‘nothing’ that exists as a certain function. More
precisely, transcendental apperception (or subjectivity) is the ‘func-
tion as nothing’ that ‘bundles’ the three faculties together into a
single system. “Transcendental” inquiry can be deemed ontological
(Heidegger), in the sense that it discovers the function as nothing
(qua Being). At the same time, in the specific sense that it designs
the structure of which we are unaware, it is also properly structural-
ist. But this kind of association does not always create new thoughts;
perhaps something is always lost in the contextual association. So it
is that we persist in the Kantian term, “transcendental,” except that
in order to elucidate its dynamism and function further, transcritique
has to intervene.
Kant’s Copernican turn is not a turn toward the philosophy of
subjectivity, but that toward the thing-in-itself by a detour of the
scrutiny of subjectivity. It was for this objective and nothing else that
Kant elaborated the transcendental structure of subjectivity. Then,
what is the concept thing-in-itself ? It has always been concerned with
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The Kantian Turn
the problematic of ethics, even before Critique of Practical Reason
took ethics up as subject matter. It is concerned, in other words,
with the problematic of the other. Kant did not initiate his whole proj-
ect with the matter of the other. And neither would I. But one of the
most crucial points I would like to address in this book is that the
Kantian turn is a revolution toward thought centered on the other,
and this turn was more radical than any self-claimed epistemological
turn has been since.
1.2 Literary Criticism and the Transcendental Critique
Kant’s three critiques targeted three domains consecutively: scien-
tific thought, morality, and the arts (and biology). Kant scrutinized
not only the peculiarity of each domain, but also their relationship
to each other. But his followers totally forgot that these domains
had not existed as such before Kant—they were the discoveries of
Kant’s criticism. The sun has existed consistently since before and
after Copernicus. It unchangingly rises from the east and sets in the
west. But after Copernicus, it came to be another thing: The term
took its place within the system of calculation. So now, with respect
to the same sun, one has different objects. In the same way, before
and after Kant the categorization of scientific thoughts, moralities,
and the arts was totally altered. One should not read Kant’s books,
therefore, taking his categorizations for granted. One should read
the Kantian critique that itself created the categorization.
Critique of Judgment (1790), the last of the three Critiques, is said to
have posed a solution to problems omitted from the previous two—
Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1787) and Critique of Practical Reason
(1788). That is, the third Critique ostensibly bridged the gaps be-
tween cognition and morality and between nature and freedom by
way of positing art as the mediator. The main subject of the third
Critique—the faculty of judgment—is isomorphic to the faculty of
imagination-power [Einbildungskraft] that mediates sensibility and
understanding in cognition. In Kant’s view, art does not begin from
concept but realizes it latently. In other words, art is that which can
intuitively (or sensually) realize what cognition and morality are sup-
posed to realize. This notion of art offered an important basis for
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the philosophers of Romanticism and thereafter. They believed that
art was the authentic knowledge from which both science and ethics
derived; in art, the synthesis of all domains was always already
achieved. Hegel posited philosophy as being higher than art—but
only after he had aestheticized philosophy. Heidegger, too, consid-
ered art (or poetry) as primordial in his “turn” from “Being and
time” to “time and Being.”
It is evident that Kant posited a clear relationality between sci-
ence, ethics, and art with his three Critiques. But what is more impor-
tant is that he ultimately presented the structure in which the three
categories form a ring, and that the thematic ring corresponds to
the triadic categorical structure on a different level: thing-in-itself,
phenomenon, and transcendental illusion, every one of which is in-
dispensable for attaining the structure—or the “Borromean knot,”
to adopt a Lacanian term.
But it is misleading to think that in the
third Critique he resolved the impasse he had encountered in the pre-
vious two. It is not that the Kantian critique—the discovery of the tri-
adic structure—was brought to a completion by Kant’s account
either of art or of the judgment of taste, in the third Critique. In-
stead, it could be said, from the beginning, the Kantian critique had
been derived from the problematic of the artistic experience.
There have been a number of etymological inquiries into the ori-
gin of Kant’s use of the term ‘critique’, all of which return eventually
to ancient Greece. But the problem with etymological retrospection
is that it tends to occlude origins of the recent past, the actual histor-
ical formation. I rather believe that the Kantian critique came most
immediately from ‘criticism’ in the literal sense, that is, commercial
journalism—an arena [Kampfplatz]—wherein the classical aesthetics
ascribed to Aristotle are no longer relevant, and thus ongoing is the
struggle with respect to the assessment of value.
Kant confessed that “the remembrance of David Hume [especially
his A Treatise of Human Nature (1739)] was the very thing that many
years ago first interrupted [the] dogmatic slumber” he was enduring
under the influence of Leibniz-Wolffian School.
Perhaps this is
true, but Hume’s influence was not the main source of Kant’s criti-
cal position. As Hans Vaihinger pointed out in his Kommentar zu
Kants Kritik der reinen Vernunft (2 vols., 1881–1892), what must have
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really awakened Kant was the book by the Scottish critic, Henry
Home (1766–1782), titled Element of Criticism (1763–1766). Accord-
ing to Vaihinger, the following remark by Kant indicates why he
read Home’s book with such excitement: “Home has more correctly
called Aesthetics Criticism, because it does not, like Logic, furnish a
priori rules.”
This suggests that Kant’s use of the term ‘critique’ may
indeed have derived from Home. Kant first used the term “critique
of reason” in “An Announcement for the Arrangement of the Lec-
tures in the Winter Semester 1765/1766.”
In the text, “the critique of
reason [die Kritik der Vernunft]” is considered logic in the wide sense,
in juxtaposition to “the critique of taste [die Kritik des Geschmacks]”—
namely, aesthetics—as that which has a very close affinity of material
cause. From this, too, one can presume a nexus shared by Kant’s “cri-
tique” and Home’s book with its eponymous “criticism.”
With Home, Kant seized the moment to reconsider the possibility
of an aesthetic judgment of taste and to investigate its basis. Home
had sought a universality of the judgment of taste—a measure of
beauty and ugliness—in principles immanent in human essence. He
insisted on the a priori nature of human sensibility with respect to
beauty and ugliness. At the same time, however, Home employed
empirical and inductive methods of observing the general rules of
taste, collecting and categorizing materials from all the domains re-
lated to art and literature from antiquity to the present. Confronting
the necessity of critical judgment, he refused to take any particular
principle for granted and charged himself with the task of question-
ing the foundational principles or infallible measures of criticism.
By taking up Home’s term “criticism,” Kant further developed the
concept into his own “critique”—a signifier of the fundamental
scrutiny of rational human faculties.
Home had to confront the “element of criticism” particularly in
England, because that is where two principles were clashing: on the
one hand, there was classicism positing a certain empirical norm in
art and literature; and on the other, there was the Romanticist ideal
cherishing an individual’s uninhibited expression of emotion. Basi-
cally taking the latter standpoint, Home still dared to seek a ground
where critical judgment could be universal, and Kant was especially
struck by this endeavor. In Critique of Judgment, he dealt tacitly with
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the same thesis and antithesis. Like Home, Kant acknowledged that
the judgment of taste had to be subjective (or individual), while be-
lieving at the same time that it should also somehow be universal. In
Kant’s case, however, he distinguished universality from generality:
Thus we will say that someone has taste if he knows how to entertain his
guests [at a party] with agreeable things (that they can enjoy by all the
senses) in such a way that everyone likes [the party]. But here it is under-
stood that the universality is only comparative, so that the rules are only
general (as all empirical rules are), not universal, as are the rules that a
judgment about the beautiful takes upon itself [sich unternimmt] or lays
claim to.
A general rule induced from experience cannot be universal. Since
Aristotle, aesthetics has been general and not universal, in the same
way as physics. Classicism had consistently attempted to extrapolate
rules from works that had been given the designation ‘master-
pieces’, and make these rules normative. As opposed to this, for
Kant, “there [could] be no rule by which someone could be com-
pelled to acknowledge that something is beautiful.”
the judgment of taste, which is distinguished from mere comfort-
ableness, must be universal:
The judgment of taste itself does not postulate [postuliert] everyone’s agree-
ment (since only a logically universal judgment can do that, because it can
adduce reasons); it merely requires this agreement from everyone [es sinnet
nur jedermann diese Einstimmung an], as an instance of the rule, an instance
regarding which it expects confirmation not from concepts but from the
agreement of others. Hence the universal voice is only an idea.
To make it doubly clear: postulieren means to assume as self-evident,
while ansinnen means to make an (unreasonable) request or de-
mand. In the judgment of taste, there is no rule that can compel. At
this juncture, Kant introduces “common sense [sensus communis],”
that is, socially and historically engendered customs. In The New Sci-
ence, Giambattista Vico had argued that “common sense [senso com-
mune] is judgment without reflection, shared by an entire class, an
entire people, an entire nation, or the entire human race.”
mon sense is a norm (following which innumerable mediocre works
are written). Common sense changes over time; but the change is
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not continuous because it is caused by the violent intervention of
individuals (i.e., geniuses) who oppose and deviate from it. For his
part, however, Kant restricted this phenomenon to the judgment of
taste only, that is, to the fine arts [die schönen Künste]: “In scientific
matters, therefore, the greatest discoverer differs from the most
arduous imitator and apprentice only in degree, whereas he differs
in kind from someone whom nature has endowed for fine art.”
But there is still a problem. If common sense is a historically trans-
forming social convention, it cannot guarantee the universality of
the judgment of taste. Common sense is both historically and
presently plural—common senses. If there is universality at all, it must
be beyond plural common senses. Did Kant give up, then, on the re-
quirement of universality? Did he mean that in the fine arts one
should make do with common senses, since universality may be
found in other domains? Of course, such questions are themselves
wrong. Kant certainly distinguished among natural science, ethics,
and art, but the distinction itself is not his terminus ad quem, for he
consistently required universality in each of these domains. In Cri-
tique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason, for example, he
sought universal law as opposed to a general rule based upon expe-
rience. But, does it mean that scientific thought and ethics contain
universal law while art lacks it? No. If universality is unaccounted for
in art, it is the same in other domains. Or, at least, Kant began his
thinking in this manner. The radicalism of his critique exists in that
he reconsidered the question of universality from the vantage of the
judgment of taste.
In Critique of Pure Reason, Kant detects subjectivity in the au-
tonomous act of understanding, while in Critique of Judgment, he uses
the terms subjective versus objective in a highly prosaic manner: in
other words, the sensuous in general is considered subjective. It fol-
lows that the multitude of individual subjects expresses themselves
on the level of feeling: either pleasure or displeasure. Subjectivity as
understanding, on the other hand, is considered an impersonal,
a priori faculty—in this case, language’s faculty—and does not ap-
pear as individual subject. Nonetheless, even though Kant poses the
issue of plural subjectivity—beginning from the feeling of pleasure/
displeasure—the problematic in Critique of Judgment is by no means
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confined to the matter of commonly understood cultural taste. In
the arena of the judgment of taste, no one can prove the universality
of his or her individual standpoint. And, viewed in inverse logic,
when people cannot prove the truth of their cognition, they use the
figure “judgment of taste,” no matter how serious the object. We say,
“Well, it’s just a matter of taste” or even, “Well, it’s all a matter of
taste.” Indeed, every judgment ultimately results in a judgment of
taste—except analytic judgment.
Finally, Kant distinguishes the judgment of taste from the matter
of pleasure/displeasure or comfort. Comfort is acknowledged to be
an individual matter, while the judgment of taste, from the begin-
ning, is required to prove its universality. In other words, the judg-
ment must be accepted by others. As Wittgenstein might say,
comfort is a “private language,” while the judgment of taste belongs
to a “common language game.”
When Kant speaks of “common
sense,” this is it. And the real problem lies in the fact that there are
many language games in the world. Therefore, the universality of
the judgment of taste becomes a problem of communication among
people who have different systems of rules, namely, among others.
The requirement of universality in the judgment of taste is the sine
qua non underlying all synthetic judgments. Therefore, it is wrong
to think that Kant discovered an autonomous, peculiar problem in
the fine arts. Rather, he sought to reconsider all problematics
through “criticism” in the judgment of taste.
Kant held that beauty is discovered by disinterest in the object. This
is, as it were, a methodological bracketing of the interests. What
kind of interests, then, must be bracketed? Intellectual and moral.
Confronting a certain object, one judges it in at least three domains
simultaneously: true or false; good or bad; pleasurable or displeasur-
able. Usually these form an intermixed complexity. And only when a
certain object is received by bracketing the other concerns (i.e., true
or false and good or bad) does it become an aesthetic object. But
what Kant characterized with respect to the judgment of taste is ap-
plicable also to both cognition and morality. In modern science, the
cognition of the object is realized only by bracketing judgments that
are moral (good or bad) and aesthetic (pleasurable or displeasur-
able). In the same way, Kant attempts a purification with respect to
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morality. In this case, it is achieved by bracketing pleasure as well as
happiness. It is crucial to keep in mind, however, that bracketing is
not the same as negation.
If this is the case, it is not outrageous that Kant solved the third
antinomy in Critique of Pure Reason by considering that the conflict-
ing terms could stand together.
Thesis—Causality in accordance with laws of nature is not the only one
from which all the appearances of the world can be derived. It is also neces-
sary to assume another causality through freedom in order to explain them.
Antithesis—There is no freedom, but everything in the world happens
solely in accordance with laws of nature.
The idea that everything is determined by natural cause is made pos-
sible by the position that brackets freedom. Conversely, only when
the determination by natural cause is bracketed, can the idea of
freedom intervene. Which idea is ‘correct’ does not matter, for the
very question never arises. One attains the cognitive domain by
bracketing moral and aesthetic dimensions, but they must always be
unbracketed whenever necessary. The same can be said of moral
and aesthetic domains. When one seeks to explain everything from
one and the same positionality, one is inexorably confronted by an-
tinomy. I deal with the ethical question of freedom in section 3.4.
Here I would stress one tangled problematic: cognitive, moral, and
aesthetic domains are all constituted by a change of attitude (i.e.,
transcendental reduction); and in the beginning these domains do
not exist in and of themselves. It follows that in every domain the
same problem recurs. For instance, in Critique of Practical Reason, the
problem of the other is explicit. But it is implied in Critique of Pure
Reason as well. And the very problem of the other is what Kant origi-
nally encountered with respect to aesthetic judgment. As I argue
later, the “thing-in-itself ” is ultimately equal to “the other.” But, in
order to reach that point, it is a sine qua non to begin with the prob-
lematic of aesthetic judgment.
What distinguishes the third Critique from the first two is the ap-
pearance of plural subjectivities. To tackle this Kant did not resort
to, say, general consciousness or general subjectivity; rather, he scru-
tinized what kind of agreement could be made among a multitude
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of subjectivities wherein there is “no rule by which someone could
be compelled to acknowledge that something is beautiful.” Hannah
Arendt granted primary importance to this aspect of the third Cri-
tique and sought to read it as a principle of political science.
François Lyotard observed in it a mediation between language
games without the establishment of a meta-language.
But Lyotard’s
reading is a regression to Hume insofar as it considers the issue of
universality to be simply one of the coalition among common
senses. After all, it is misleading to presume a transition or develop-
ment between Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Judgment, since
the former was already affected by and took into account the aporia
posed in the arena of criticism in the journalistic sense. Thus our
task is to reread Critique of Pure Reason from this vantage point.
Kant’s distinction between universality and generality sprang from
the problematic of modern science beginning with Copernicus. This
should be distinguished from Francis Bacon’s positions of corrobo-
rative evidence and induction exemplified. In the first place, the he-
liocentricism (of Copernicus) is not the kind of matter that is easily
proven. Descartes sought to publish his account of the universe as
one sympathetic to Copernicus, but abandoned his plan after learn-
ing about Galileo’s prosecution, and then wrote Discourse on Method.
As this anecdote might imply, Descartes was not necessarily specula-
tive; rather, he stressed the significance of hypothesis and presented
a methodology where hypothesis comes first to be proven later by
experimentation (by whomever). But, again, can hypothesis be veri-
fied by experimentation at all? It is impossible to induce a law from
experience, or it is impossible to extract a universal proposition
from singular propositions. A universal proposition is technically an
indefinite expansion of conjunctive propositions wherein it is impos-
sible to verify apodictically the infinite chain of elementary proposi-
tions. Thus the crux of Hume’s skepticism is that since a universal
proposition cannot be constituted, a law is finally no more than a
custom. But some held that, while a universal proposition could not
be verified positively, at least it could be proven false. And inasmuch
as it is not proven false, the universal proposition can be considered
true. Karl Popper famously maintained that the universality of the
proposition could be claimed if no falsification were possible when
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The Kantian Turn
a proposition is posed in a falsifiable way. Although Popper appreci-
ated the fact that this idea was latent in Kant’s own work, he also ac-
cused him of remaining in the subjectivist framework.
If a certain
proposition can be deemed universal at all, it is only insofar as one
presumes the existence of the other who may falsify it at present as
well as in the future. To Popper, however, Kant appears to have pre-
sented a rather different, arguably even opposite, approach—as if
universality could be guaranteed by a priori rule! But, one has to be
extremely cautious with respect to Kant’s positionality here, for, as
we have seen, it was only after having confronted the problematic
of the judgment of taste (i.e., the universality in plural language
games) that Kant wrote Critique of Pure Reason.
Critique of Pure Reason begins by describing a single subjectivity, to
be sure. This does not mean, however, that Kant neglected the exis-
tence of the multitude of other subjects. Rather, he did not even
dream that universality could be attained by an agreement among
plural subjectivities, that is, by intersubjectivity. For Kant, who was
also a scientist, it was self-evident that an a priori synthetic judg-
ment is not easily attained—and a fortiori not during his lifetime,
when heterogeneous hypotheses were very much in conflict in
the natural sciences and not merely on “der Kampfplatz der Meta-
physik.” An agreement with others—no matter how many, and in-
cluding a falsification that is based upon prior agreement—hardly
guarantees universality. An agreement is customarily made within
the realm of common sense, just to reinforce it. If universality at all
exists, therefore, it must be something that goes beyond plural com-
mon senses.
It is small surprise, then, that Popper’s position came to be criti-
cized within the philosophy of science. As Thomas Kuhn argued,
there is a possibility that even a proposition posed in a falsifiable way
is not always falsified; instead, the institution of proof itself is deter-
mined by the “paradigm.”
Furthermore, as with Paul Feyerabend,
the truth-value of scientific cognition tout court is determined by dis-
cursive hegemony.
And so Popper eventually shifted his position to
think of the development of science more in the manner of evolu-
tionary theory, that is, that stronger theories survive.
Was the Kant-
ian critique buried by these later deployments? I think not. First,
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Kuhn’s paradigm closely corresponds to Kant’s common sense. Sec-
ond, what Kuhn spoke of in reference to his paradigm shift were
only those “geniuses”—Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein—not un-
like the geniuses who appear already in Kant’s third Critique. Per-
haps Kuhn never dreamt of such a coincidence because of the
complications: After all, Kant had limited his application of the con-
cepts ‘genius’ and ‘common sense’ to the domain of fine art; and
the sharp distinction between natural and cultural sciences made by
the neo-Kantians (Heinrich Rickert, among others) became very in-
fluential. Meanwhile, the concept ‘paradigm’ is widely accepted
against Kuhn’s own design precisely because it addressed a problem-
atic wider than that of natural science, which is to say that it has the
impetus of “criticism” or even “literary criticism.”
Seen from this standpoint, it might be that contemporary philoso-
phers of science have drawn close to the ground Kant cultivated in
Critique of Judgment. But again it must be noted that Kant had already
been aware of the problematic inherent in the arena of journalistic
criticism when he began writing Critique of Pure Reason. In this first
Critique, the other (or the other subject) is ostensibly absent. The
book persists in pursuing the introspective mode of inquiry. Those
who criticize Kant unexceptionably question if introspective inquiry
(i.e., the monologue) is by itself sufficient to scrutinize the founda-
tion of science. It is true that Kant did not seek to introduce the
agreement of others, because the agreement itself would not guar-
antee a universal proposition. Instead, in the concept of the thing-
in-itself, he implied the future others who could falsify. But this is
not to say that our thought could never be universal because of fu-
ture others. On the contrary, the question of universality could not
be posed without taking the others into consideration. In the history
of philosophy, Kant was the first to have introduced the problematic
of the other in this succinct manner.
1.3 Parallax and the Thing-in-Itself
Philosophy begins with introspection. Nonetheless, the kind of in-
trospection that Kant performed in Critique of Pure Reason is quite
unique. It is a criticism of introspection. Thinking of this aspect of
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the Kantian introspection, one ought not ignore his rather strange
text “Dreams of a Visionary Explained by Dreams of Metaphysics.”
Kant wrote this essay in 1766 for a journal in the playful style of
eighteenth-century essayists. It was inspired by the famous earth-
quake that struck Lisbon on November 1, 1755, All Saints Day—the
very moment the faithful were at prayer in church. No wonder the
event raised such skepticism about the Grace of God. The Lisbon
earthquake shook all Europe at its root—the general populace and in-
tellectuals alike. It rent a deep crack between sensibility and under-
standing, as it were, which, right up to Leibniz, had maintained a
relationship of remarkably seamless continuity. The Kantian critique
cannot be separated from this profound and multilayered crisis.
Several years later, Voltaire wrote Candide, deriding Leibnizian
predestined harmony, and Rousseau insisted that the earthquake
was punishment for human society’s having lost touch with nature.
By distinct contrast, Kant (who wrote as many as three analyses of
the problem) stressed that the earthquake of 1755 had no religious
meaning whatsoever, attributable as it was to natural causes alone.
He also advanced scientific hypotheses about the cause of the
quake, as well as possible countermeasures to avert future occur-
rences. It is noteworthy that while even empiricists could not help
searching for ‘meanings’ to attribute to the event, Kant did no such
thing. But his radical materialism coexisted with the opposite and
opposing radicalism that he simultaneously embraced—that is, his
concern with metaphysics. That is to say that he was fascinated by
the intellect of the visionary Swedenborg, who was said to have ‘pre-
dicted’ the earthquake. Kant not only conducted an inquiry into
Swedenborg’s purportedly miraculous power, but also wrote a letter
in the hope of meeting him.
Even with his interest in visionary phenomena, however, Kant per-
sisted in his belief in natural causes. The former he considered to be
daydreams, or a sort of brain disorder. He maintained that although
a vision is in actuality just a thought in the mind, it appears to have
come from the outside, by way of the senses.
At the same time, how-
ever, he could not deny Swedenborg’s intellect. While, in many
cases, the claim to perceive the supra-sensible through the senses is
delusional, there are a very few whose claims of possessing such
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power might in some sense be verifiable. Swedenborg was this ex-
ception: a first-class scientist, he was by no means demented; and,
here there was credible evidence of his psychic power. Kant had to
acknowledge this, but at the same time he had also to negate it.
Though he called it a “psychosis,” he could not help taking “the
dreams of a visionary” seriously. And yet he problematized his own
seriousness: “Therefore, by no means do I blame my readers, if they,
instead of acknowledging the visionary as a half citizen of the other
world, are quick to write him off as a hospital candidate and thereby
shirk from all further inquiry.”
But this caveat would be less inter-
esting, were it restricted merely to “the visionary’s dreams.” Kant
stresses that the same is true of metaphysicists and metaphysics,
since they treat thought not deriving from experience as substantial.
In this sense, his essay could be read as “Dreams of Metaphysics Ex-
plained by Dreams of a Visionary.” He asks, “What kind of folly exists
which cannot be brought to the mood of the bottomless world wis-
dom [philosophy]?” Whereupon he continues: “Therefore, by no
means do I blame my readers . . . .” In other words, the dreams of
metaphysicists are also first class “folly” and evidence of a “psy-
chosis.” There is no major difference between being obsessed with
dreams of metaphysics and with the dreams of a visionary. At this
moment of his life, Kant admitted that being obsessed with meta-
physics was sheer madness, and yet philosophers could not help but
be mad in this sense. Thus his essay is really speaking of a metaphysi-
cian in the guise of speaking of a visionary, and the metaphysician in
this case was Kant himself—before he encountered Hume, that is.
A decade and a half later, Kant opened the 1781 preface to Critique
of Pure Reason, with the assertion that “[n]ow, in accordance with the
fashion of the age, the queen [read metaphysics] proves despised on
all sides,”
nonetheless, he added, “it is pointless to affect indiffer-
ence with respect to such inquiries, to whose object human nature
cannot be indifferent. Moreover, however much they may think to
make themselves unrecognizable by exchanging the language of the
schools for a popular style, these so-called indifferentists, to the ex-
tent that they think anything at all, always unavoidably fall back into
metaphysical assertions, which they yet professed so much to de-
But this is precisely Kant’s own split, or rather the one he
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had faced in “Dreams of a Visionary,” where he wrote in a completely
self-contradictory (indeed, antinomic) manner. He both affirmed
Swedenborg and metaphysics, and scorned this very affirmation. In
Critique of Pure Reason, this conflict takes the form of denying reason’s
expansion of knowledge beyond its limit, even while acknowledging
reason’s drive to do precisely this. In the first Critique, the satiric self-
criticism of “Dreams of a Visionary” thus turns into a critique of
reason by reason. Which is to say that, instead of treating this merely
as his personal problem, Kant ‘turns’ (by a process that a Freudian or
Lacanian might well call ‘transference’) to treat it as a problem
“given to [reason] by the nature of reason itself.”
This, precisely, is
the crux of the “transcendental critique,” or one important aspect of
what I am calling transcritique.
In any case, the transposition from “Dreams of a Visionary” to Cri-
tique of Pure Reason is decisive. Yet, in order to read the latter, one
must refer to the former. For it is there that Kant’s idiosyncratic
manner of reflection is explicit.
“Formerly,” Kant wrote in “Dreams
of a Visionary,” “I viewed human common sense only from the
standpoint of my own; now I put myself into the position of an-
other’s reason outside of myself, and observe my judgments, to-
gether with their most secret causes, from the point of view of
others. It is true that the comparison of both observations results in
pronounced parallax, but it is the only means of preventing the opti-
cal delusion, and of putting the concept of the power of knowledge
in human nature into its true place.”
Here Kant is not expressing
the commonplace, that not only must one see things from one’s
own point of view, but also, simultaneously, from the point of view of
others. If this is what he meant, it would be run-of-the mill: the his-
tory of philosophy is filled with reflections on seeing oneself as oth-
ers would see. In Kant this “point of view of others” would manifest
itself only by way of the “pronounced parallax.” To understand this
properly, it is necessary to exemplify a technology that did not exist
in Kant’s time.
‘Reflection’ is often spoken of by way of the metaphor of seeing
one’s image in the mirror. The mirror image is identified with the
image seen by the other. But in today’s context, photography must
also be taken into consideration. Let us compare them. At the time
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photography was invented, those who saw their faces in pictures
could not help but feel a certain hideousness—just like hearing a
tape recording of one’s own voice for the first time. While it had
been possible to see one’s own image, whether by reflection in a
mirror, water, or in a painted portrait, these methods were too sub-
jective. Although the mirror image can be identified with the image
seen by the other, there is still a certain complicity with regard to
one’s own viewpoint. After all, we can see our own image in the mir-
ror ‘any way we like’; and the mirror image is not fully fixed (not to
mention the fact that it is left/right inverted or inside out). A
painted portrait is a depiction by the other, but any hideousness in
seeing the image can be ascribed to the subjectivity (read malice) of
the other. By contrast, photography sustains a different, much more
severe, objectivity. Even though there is always a photographer, his or
her subjectivity is less influential than the painter’s, for there is an in-
eradicable, mechanical distance in the photographic image. Strange
as it may be, we cannot see our faces (read the thing-in-itself ), ex-
cept as an image reflected in the mirror (read phenomenon). And
only thanks to the advent of photography, did we learn that fact. But
again, photography is also an image, and, of course, people eventu-
ally get used to the mechanical image, so much so that they eventu-
ally come to feel that the image is themselves. But the crux here is
the “pronounced parallax”—that which people presumably experi-
ence when they ‘first’ see their photographic image.
The effect of parallax is evident also in Derrida’s statement that
consciousness is equivalent to “hearing oneself speak [s’entendre par-
In regard to this claim, Hegel would say that it is the speaking
that objectifies (or externalizes [entäussert]) the self; but this objecti-
fied voice (or utterance [Äusserung]) in the Hegelian sense is not ob-
jective at all—it is merely my view. To be objective, there must be the
displacement or derangement one experiences when one first hears
one’s own recorded voice. The hideousness or uncanniness one ex-
periences is due to the viewpoint of others that intervenes therein.
When I first see my face and hear my voice from the others’ view-
point, I think it is not my face nor my voice. In Freudian terms, this
would be the “resistance” of the analysand. Eventually, one comes to
terms with the visual and audible images; one has to get used to
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The Kantian Turn
them. But in philosophical reflection, this is not the case. The phi-
losophy that begins with introspection-mirror remains snared within
the specular abyss of introspection. No matter how it seeks to intro-
duce the other’s stance, this situation never alters. It is said that phi-
losophy began with Socrates’ dialogues. But the dialogue itself is
trapped within the mirror. Many have criticized Kant for having re-
mained in a subjectivist self-scrutiny, and suggest that he sought an
escape in Critique of Judgment when he introduced plural subjects.
But the truly revolutionary event in philosophy had already oc-
curred in Critique of Pure Reason, where Kant attempted to implode
the complicity inherent in introspection precisely by confining him-
self to the introspective framework. Here one can observe the at-
tempt to introduce an objectivity (qua otherness) that is totally alien
to the conventional space of introspection-mirror.
Most straightforwardly said, what is at stake in “Dreams of a Vi-
sionary” is the critical position that Kant himself was in at that time:
pursuing rationalist philosophy on the line of Leibniz/Wolff, there
was no other choice but to accept Hume’s empiricist skepticism, yet
he was not at all satisfied by either. For about ten years after that, up
until Critique of Pure Reason, he confined himself in silence. The
stance that he called transcendental came into existence sometime
during this period. Kant’s approach in Critique of Pure Reason is dif-
ferent not only from subjective introspection, but also from objec-
tive scrutiny. Though it is a self-scrutiny through and through, the
transcendental reflection inscribes others’ viewpoint. Said inversely,
though it is impersonal through and through, the transcendental
reflection is still self-scrutiny.
One tends to speak of the transcendental stance as a mere
method, and worse still, one speaks of the structure of faculties Kant
discovered as a given. The transcendental stance, however, could
not have appeared if not for the pronounced parallax. Critique of
Pure Reason is not written in the mode of self-criticism as is “Dreams
of a Visionary,” but the pronounced parallax is present, functioning
therein. It came to take the form of “antinomy,” the device to reveal
both thesis and antithesis as optical illusions.
After the publication of Critique of Pure Reason (A), Kant expressed
his realization that the order of his reasoning would have been
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better if he had dealt with the distinction between phenomenon
and the thing-in-itself after “The Antinomy of Pure Reason” (in the
section “Transcendental Dialectic”).
In fact, it is true that, because
Kant began with the distinction between phenomenon and the
thing-in-itself, many readers’ understanding of Kant’s total design
(his “Architectonik”) retrogresses to the conventional duality of phe-
nomenon and essence or surface and depth. This is the impression
given to both those readers who deny and those who affirm the con-
cept of ‘the thing-in-itself ’. Those who reject it as mystical under-
stand it only within the dichotomy, and even those who retain it, like
Heidegger, interpret it only in the sense of the ontological depth or
“abyss” [Abgrund]. In truth, however, there are no mystical implica-
tions in the properly Kantian thing-in-itself.
It is something like
one’s own face in the sense that it undoubtedly exists but cannot be
seen except as an image (read phenomenon). What is crucial here is
henceforth the antinomy as a pronounced parallax—the sole thing
that reveals what is more than an image (phenomenon). In fact
Kant poses antinomy not only in the section on the transcendental
dialectic but almost everywhere. For instance, as one of the crucial
examples, he draws out transcendental subjectivity X from the antin-
omy between the Cartesian thesis, “There is an identical ego,” and
the Humian antithesis, “There is no identical ego.”
It is generally understood that in Critique of Pure Reason, Kant con-
siders the thing-in-itself as that which stimulates sensibility and gives
it content, while in Critique of Practical Reason, transcendental subjec-
tivity itself is deemed the thing-in-itself. This apparent inconsistency
has caused much confusion. And, concomitant with this, there is the
common interpretation that the first Critique deals with the theoreti-
cal domain while the second deals with the practical. But this division
is not accurate. Hannah Arendt refuted this idea, arguing that the
counterconcept to the theoretical is not the practical, but the specula-
tive. (As I have clarified with respect to the “third conflict of tran-
scendental ideas,” the theoretical stance that pursues laws of nature
and the practical stance that pursues freedom can coexist, if the op-
eration of bracketing one or the other is necessitated.) In point of
fact, even scientific theory can be in no other way than practical,
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The Kantian Turn
because it would not even exist were it not for the “regulative idea,”
the assumption that nature be elucidated. Kant himself addressed the
issue of “the doctrinal faith” (or “beliefs”) [der doktrinale Glaube] that
accompanies “theoretical judgments” [theoretische Urteile] as follows:
[T]hus there is in merely theoretical judgements an analogous of practical
judgements, where taking them to be true is aptly described by the word
belief, and which we can all doctrinal beliefs [der doktrinale Glaube]. If it were
possible to settle by any sort of experience whether they are inhabitants of
at least some of the planets that we see, I might well bet everything that
I have on it. Hence I say that it is not merely an opinion but a strong belief
(on the correctness of which I would wager many advantages in life) that
there are also inhabitants of other worlds.
The connotation here is that scientific cognition—or synthetic
judgment—is not speculation, and yet it inexorably involves a certain
spec or bet (though one might also add that it is also a kind of spes, ex-
pectation or hope, insofar as it is related to faith). For this reason,
scientific cognition can be expansive.
However, just as it is misleading to definitively divide the theoreti-
cal and the practical, the thing-in-itself can also not be divided into
the thing and the other ego (or the other subject). It is not the thing
that negates (falsifies) a scientific hypothesis; it is not the thing but
the future others who speak. However, while it is the other who can
negate our cognition (qua phenomenon), this negation has to be
accompanied by the other’s sense-datum (qua the thing). What is
crucial here is the otherness, be it of the thing or of the other per-
son. But this otherness is nothing mystical. What Kant implied by
the thing-in-itself was the alterity of the other that we can never take
for granted and internalize just on our whim or at our convenience.
Nor is the point merely that Kant deplored the fact that we are able
to know only phenomena and not substance. Rather, the Kantian
point is that the universality of phenomena (qua synthetic judg-
ment) is taken into consideration only insofar as we wholeheartedly
posit the alterity or otherness of the other.
Kant did consider the attitude that anticipates what the alterity
would be as “speculative.” On the other hand, however, he also held
that even though this attitude—again spes—attains only illusion
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[Schein], it is a sine qua non (vis-à-vis the transcendental illusion).
In fact, the regulative idea—that we be able to recognize nature—
functions heuristically. The founder of cybernetics, Norbert Wiener,
who was involved in the Manhattan Project, said that what was
treated in the counterintelligence community as the real secret was
not the manual for making the atom bomb; it was the fact that it
had already been made. When both Germany and Japan were devel-
oping the idea of making the bomb, they would have succeeded in
its production had they discovered that it was possible. Solving tradi-
tional “chess problems” is far easier than playing a real game of
chess because the faith that the king can be checkmated is the most
helpful clue to the problem’s solution. The notion that the natural
world comprises mathematical structure is also an example of ‘theo-
retical faith’. For the same reason, natural science came into exis-
tence only in the modern West thanks to the ‘theoretical faith’ it
had nutured.
It has also been said that Kant rejected metaphysics/theology in
Critique of Pure Reason but recuperated it in Critique of Practical
Reason. In reality, he rebuffed it in the latter, too, and in the former
he made the point clear that all theories, if they are to be synthetic
and expansive, cannot do away with a certain faith. What he sought
in the second Critique were the conditions prerequisite to establish-
ing a universal law of ethics as opposed to a general moral order
based on empirical data. By taking this approach, Kant rejected
the truth claim of religion, but accepted it as a regulative idea. To
be sure, one who chose to live strictly according to the universal
law of ethics would doubtless lead a tragic life in reality. If not for
eternal life and God’s final judgment, such a life would inexorably
culminate in absurdity. It follows that Kant had to accept faith as
a regulative idea at the same time as he rejected any attempt to
prove it theoretically: that is, he rejected this particular aspect of
Necessarily misled by the categorical distinctions among the theo-
retical, the practical, and the aesthetic, one should not overlook the
problematics Kant pursued consistently on other, different levels.
What is most important is that, in seeking universality, Kant had
to introduce the other, and that this other is not one who can be
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The Kantian Turn
identified with the self in any sense of intersubjectivity or common
sense. This is not some transcendent other—divine or God—but a
transcendental other. Nor is this other a one who introduces rela-
tivism into our thinking, but rather the one who makes us face the
problem of universality. The rigorous consistency of the Kantian cri-
tique, which informs all his work, derives directly from this radical
point of departure: the problematic of universality in the judgment
of taste, which is also to say, criticism in a journalistic sense.
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
2.1 Mathematical Foundations
Regarded as he has been as a philosopher of subjectivity, the most
organized criticism of Kant understandably sprang up from the
philosophy of science. As I have been contending, however, one of
the most crucial points of Kant’s scientific thinking was the problem-
atic of the other, and this aspect has been overlooked. Kant’s theory
of mathematics in particular has been not simply misunderstood
but consistently disdained. Here I would like to argue against
this stance vis-à-vis mathematics and illuminate the brilliance of his
Kant detected synthetic judgment in every domain of thinking
except for logic, the domain of tautology. Mathematics was no ex-
ception. Or, more to the point, Kant’s radical contribution here was
that he considered even mathematics—the very domain believed to
be most stable and certain because of its being analytical—as an
a priori synthetic judgment. During his lifetime, it was this stance that
earned Kant the worst reputation of all of his ideas, and it has been
constantly attacked ever since. But Kant maintained this stance be-
cause previous philosophy had insisted that only analytic judgment
was apodictic, and accordingly took mathematics—which philoso-
phy was convinced was the most analytic of judgments—as a norm.
I would like to shed more direct light on Kant’s intervention by look-
ing into specific instances of this old philosophical conviction.
6715 CH02 UG 1/29/03 7:45 PM Page 55
Leibniz held that the basis of truth lay in “being identical or
reducible to the identical truth,” and he further distinguished be-
tween contingent truth (truth of fact) and necessary truth (truth of
reasoning). In contingent truth, the predicate is contained in the
concept of the subject; nevertheless, contingent truth cannot be re-
duced to an equivalency or identity between subject and predicate,
and thus it can never be proven—what Leibniz expressed as “contin-
ued resolution.” Still, according to Leibniz, only analytic judgment is
true. Nonetheless, he also came to posit, by way of the “principle of
sufficient reason,” that even truths of fact are analytic judgments
that are deducible from the subject. For example, in the contingent
proposition of fact ‘Caesar crossed the Rubicon’, the phrase ‘crossed
the Rubicon’ is contained already (enthymemically, as Leibniz says)
in the subject ‘Caesar’. In short, Leibniz believed that all synthetic
judgments result in analytic judgments. The early Kant thought in a
similar manner. Meanwhile the Hume who “interrupted [Kant’s]
dogmatic slumber” with his acute skepticism still believed that only
mathematics was analytic. And for this, Kant criticized him:
[I]t was nonetheless just as if he had said: Pure mathematics contains only
analytic propositions, but metaphysics contains synthetic propositions a pri-
ori. Now he erred severely in this, and this error had decisively damaging
consequences for his entire conception [concerning the necessary connec-
tion between cause and effect]. For had he not done this, he would have ex-
panded his question about the origin of our synthetic judgments far
beyond his metaphysical concept of causality and extended it also to the
possibility of a priori mathematics; for he would have had to accept mathe-
matics as synthetic as well. But then he would by no means have been able
to found his metaphysical propositions on mere experience, for otherwise
he would have had to subject the axioms of pure mathematics to experi-
ence as well, which he was much too reasonable to do.
In this respect, it must be said that Hume’s skepticism was indeed in-
consistent; he did not move beyond the convention that solely ana-
lytical thinking is solid while the synthetic is questionable. By
contrast, Kant’s epoch-making contribution lay in his skepticism
concerning the analytic nature of mathematics—the very ground of
metaphysics since at least Plato. But even those who agreed with
Kant’s critique of metaphysics did not understand his insight into
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
mathematics as synthetic. As far as this point was concerned, they
were too steeped in metaphysical thinking. It was Kant alone who
dared to step into, and to subvert, the sacred precinct that the con-
flicting philosophical poles—rationalism and empiricism—had simply
taken for granted. What is more, this radicalism is intimately related
to the fact that Kant imagined the possibility of a new mathematics.
The so-called crisis of mathematics is said to have begun with two
mathematical innovations of the late nineteenth century: non-
Euclidean geometry and set theory. To be more precise, Carl
Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855) had already thought of both possibili-
ties, including what kind of crises they would cause; but he kept
quiet and even discouraged public discourse about them. There-
fore, it is not the case that the critical situation of mathematics sud-
denly surfaced in the late nineteenth century; by the mid eighteenth
century, the idea of non-Euclidean geometry was already known. For
instance, it had already been demonstrated that from the axiom,
‘the sum total of the three internal angles of a triangle is smaller
than that of two right angles’, a system of theorems could be con-
structed without contradiction. Furthermore, non-Euclidean geome-
try in the context of the problem of the sphere had also already been
conceptualized. As Gottfried Martin points out, Johann Heinrich Lam-
bert (1728–1777), one of the founders of this tendency, was a friend
of Kant’s.
And Kant’s awareness of the possibility of new mathemat-
ics is evident in his papers on physics, as I will demonstrate.
What Kant sought to ground philosophically was certainly not the
mathematics and physics that had already been solidly established in
the eighteenth century. A foundational theory would never have to
be constructed in the first place if not in response to a crisis of foun-
dation itself. What drives philosophers toward rigorous theoretical
grounding is always critical consciousness—as it is precisely exempli-
fied also in Marx’s “critique of political economy,” which would not
have come into existence in the absence of actual financial crises.
For his part, what drove Kant toward his own foundational theory
was a radical sense of crisis, which, however, was far too progressive
to be shared or accepted by his contemporaries. And, to a certain
degree, it could be said that Kant, like Gauss later, avoided publicly
declaring the crisis (so as to avoid the legendary fate of Hippasos).
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If Kant’s texts are so still suggestive today, it is ultimately because of
his pioneering sense of the crisis, but also because of his discursive
prudence with regard to stating more publicly the depth and impli-
cation of this crisis. Hence the need for a transcritical reading of his
When he was twenty-two years old, Kant wrote in his graduate the-
sis that “If the law changes, the expansion [of space] will also turn to
have different properties and dimensions. The science of all the pos-
sible space will be without doubt the highest geometry the finite un-
derstanding can undertake. Though, as we realize, it is impossible to
represent a more than three dimensional space.”
Now, one of the most influential aspects of The Elements by Euclid
(306–283 B.C.E) is the thesis that a theorem can be deduced from an
axiom without contradiction. But this claim does not hold for the di-
verse mathematics that have developed over history. The develop-
ment of mathematics has been driven more by applied mathematics,
or by games, than by any principle. This is because the crux of math-
ematics has always been located in the practice of grasping the rela-
tion of things. As an effect of the Euclidean principle, however, it has
been assumed that all mathematical procedures could and should fol-
low the proof as a formal (and analytical) deduction from an axiom.
And this is the reason why mathematics has become established as the
fountainhead of analytical judgment. Nonetheless, prioritizing analyt-
ical judgment was not the specific property of mathematics itself. It is
metaphysics that has taken mathematics as the norm because of the pre-
supposition that mathematics is analytical. In other words, it is Plato’s
dogma that only analytical thinking is true that made Euclidean geome-
try possible. Therefore, to undermine Plato’s position, mathematics
must be the primary field of critique.
And the truth of the matter is that the question of whether or not
the Euclidean “elements” are truly analytical has been asked more
or less from the inception of mathematics. The Elements consist of de-
finitions, axioms, and postulates, and among these, it is the fifth pos-
tulate that has been most controversial: If a straight line crosses two
other straight lines so that the sum of the two interior angles on one side of it
is less than two right angles, then the two straight lines, if extended far
enough, cross on that same side. In the eighteenth century, this was
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
restated into a simpler proposition, the famous “parallel postulate”:
Through a point P outside a line L there is one and only one line parallel
to L. The particular postulate in Euclid’s The Elements was thrown
into doubt by the following question: Isn’t this theorem deducible
from other postulates and axioms? What non-Euclidean geometry
made clear was that Euclid’s fifth postulate is independent of the
other Euclidean axioms; and further, not only that this is not intu-
itively self-evident but also that contradiction will not occur even if
other postulates are adopted. For instance, Lobachevsky’s geometry
was derived from the proposition The sum total of the three internal an-
gles of a triangle is smaller than that of two right angles, while Riemann’s
geometry came from the proposition The sum total of the three internal
angles of a triangle is larger than that of two right angles. Using different
expressions, Lobachevsky adopted the postulate In a plane, through a
point outside a line L, there are an infinite number of lines which do not in-
tersect L, while Riemann chose Through a point P outside a line L there is
no line parallel to it; that is, every pair of lines in a plane must intersect.
But, to repeat, and as Gottfried Martin also emphasizes, Kant had
already thought of the possibilities of non-Euclidean geometry. In
fact, when Kant considered mathematics as an “a priori synthetic
judgment,” he already had explicitly in mind the very nature of ax-
ioms. Kant clearly maintained both that axioms are independent of
empirical substance and that they are, at the same time, not sheer
constructs of the concept (or understanding). Empirically speaking,
for example, since parallel lines do not intersect, it follows that the
axiom, parallel lines intersect, is independent of empirical reality.
Viewed from the Leibnizian standpoint, within the concept of the
triangle (read the subject) what is already included is the predicate:
The sum total of the three internal angles of a triangle is equal to that of two
right angles. Therefore, non-Euclidean geometry is just a reductio ad
absurdum. From the Leibnizian standpoint, axioms as such had been
obstacles, so he had sought to do away with them—but in vain.
Kant thought of the problematic of axioms in a much more so-
phisticated manner. He explained the difference between analytic
judgment and synthetic judgment in two ways: analytic judgment is
where the concept ‘predicate’ is included in the concept ‘subject’,
and it can be proven only by the law of contradiction. In contrast,
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synthetic judgment requires something other than the law of contradic-
tion. Which is to say that Kant’s consideration of mathematics as
being an a priori synthetic judgment derives rigorously from his con-
sideration of the status of axioms. Thus Kant opposed the reduction
of mathematics to logic. Kant notwithstanding, however, the concept
that mathematics is an analytic judgment proved itself not to be easily
shaken. A notable example is the later nineteenth-century logicism
of Frege/Russell, which expressed the clearest conviction that mathe-
matics be logical. Russell, in particular, was this delusion’s prime pro-
ponent. On the one hand, he was an empiricist like Hume; on the
other, he insisted that mathematics was analytical. As he put it:
The proof that all pure mathematics, including Geometry, is nothing but
formal logic, is a fatal blow to the Kantian philosophy. Kant, rightly perceiv-
ing that Euclid’s propositions could not be deduced from Euclid’s axioms
without the help of figures, invented a theory of knowledge to account for
this fact; and it accounted so successfully that, when the fact is shown to be
a mere defect in Euclid, and not a result of the nature of geometric reason-
ing, Kant’s theory also has to be abandoned. The whole doctrine of a priori
intuitions, by which Kant explained the possibility of pure mathematics, is
wholly inapplicable to mathematics in its present form.
Russell’s seminal account is deeply biased by the erroneous belief
that Kant pursued mathematics in the context of pre-non-Euclidean
geometry. But Kant’s mathematics was already far beyond the asser-
tion that it was “wholly inapplicable to mathematics in its present
form.” At the end of the day, it was sooner Russell’s twentieth-
century logicism—“all pure mathematics are nothing but formal
logic”—that had been proleptically ruptured by possibilities con-
ceived in the eighteenth century by Kant.
During the twentieth century, the foundational theory of mathe-
matics diverged into three main sects: logicism, formalism, and intu-
itionism. An intuitionist, Luitzen Egbertus Jan Brouwer (1881–1966),
took a finitist stance, as opposed to treating infinity as substance. In
his view, although the law of classical logic was based on finite sets,
people had mistakenly come to apply it to infinite sets, forgetting its
true origin. He further argued that the crucial law of the excluded
middle—‘Either a proposition A or its negation non-A must be
true’—precisely cannot be applied to infinite sets. The law of the
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
excluded middle is used in the manner: ‘If the hypothesis—it is not
A—falls into a paradox, the proof—it is A—is achieved.’ This type of
proof is functional only in finite cases, but not in the case of infinite
sets. Finally, Brouwer held that the paradox that occurs in infinite
sets is due to abuse of the law of the excluded middle. And about
this, too, Kant had had something important to say.
Kantian dialectics in Critique of Pure Reason present how antinomy
occurs due to the abuse of the law of the excluded middle. Kant dis-
tinguishes between negative judgment—‘he does not die’—and infi-
nite judgment—‘he is immortal ’. Although the infinite judgment is
an affirmative judgment, it is commonly mistaken for a negative
one. Similarly, the proposition—‘the world is not bounded’—is
deemed equipollent to the proposition—‘the world is infinite’. The
law of the excluded middle is functional in the case of ‘the world is
bounded or not bounded’, but not in the proposition ‘the world is
bounded or infinite’, in which both propositions can be false. Thus
Kant revealed that the law of the excluded middle inexorably falls
into paradox with respect to infinity. But arguably the most radical
paradox of contemporary mathematics derives from Georg Cantor’s
theory of infinite sets—especially his attempt to treat infinity as a
number. And this paradox, too (whether Cantor himself was aware
of it or not), is intimately connected to Kant’s theory of antinomy.
In order for a universal proposition to be established, for in-
stance, it is sine qua non to collect instances indefinitely. And this
act will never reach the point where everything is collected, where
the infinity is attained. Since ancient Greece, elementary logic has
always taken the example of syllogism: “all humans die; Socrates is
a human; therefore, Socrates dies.” In the strict sense, the proposi-
tion “all humans die” is a generality (indefinity) based upon experi-
ence, and not universality (infinity). There may be a man who does
not die. But, in terms of the procedure of proof, unless counterevi-
dence that there is a man who does not die is actually posed, the
proposition can be deemed a scientific truth. It is totally unlikely
that such counterevidence could ever be posed in reality, however, it
should still be considered a possibility. It is at this point that ‘the
other’ has to intervene as the ultimate ground for a universal propo-
sition to be established. The concept of universality itself inexorably
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introduces the problematic of ‘the other’. The domain of mathe-
matics is not exempted from this, though those who considered
mathematics as a type of analytic judgment sought to do away with it.
Famously, the paradox of contemporary mathematics derived
from Cantor’s theory of sets that sought to grasp infinity itself as a
number. And this must have some link to Kant’s theory of antinomy,
though Cantor did not think that way. According to Martin, the clos-
est approximation to Kant’s approach among all contemporary the-
ories of mathematical foundations is intuitionism. Intuitionism
acknowledges only finite objects, namely, those that can be consti-
tuted. In Martin’s words:
If we are trying, from today’s point of view, to understand Kant’s explana-
tions about the constructive character of mathematics, then we [have to be]
aware that we are using facts which Kant hadn’t yet known in this precise
way. Such an explanation of Kant based on our contemporary insights nev-
ertheless seems to be possible because the Intuitionists themselves accept
this relationship with the Kantian premises. Given this, the Kantian thesis of
the intuitive character of mathematics means the limiting of mathematics
to those objects that are constitutable [konstruierbar].
From here, Kant’s position towards Euclidean geometry can be made
clear. We have already said that even many Kantians passionately contested
the possibility of non-Euclidean geometry. Certainly this protest had a
certain justification in Kant’s positions, but things are much more diffi-
cult here than one first assumed. They became even more burdened be-
cause of the fact that Kant—just like Gauss later—neglected to speak of
non-Euclidean geometries. And when we view the battles provoked by the
introduction of non-Euclidean geometries, we must indeed say that Kant
was right to be cautious. There can be no doubt, however, that Kant himself
was quite clear about the fact that, in geometry, what is logically possible
goes far beyond the realm of Euclidean geometry. But Kant held fast, even
if presumably erroneously, to one thesis. What goes beyond Euclidean
geometry is logically possible, it is true, but it is not constitutable. This
means that it is not intuitively constitutable. And this means, in turn, that
for Kant it does not exist mathematically. Only Euclidean geometry exists in
the mathematical sense, whereas all non-Euclidean geometries are mere
From this standpoint, Martin reinterprets the significance of Kant’s
having deemed mathematics constitutive. Intuitive is equal to consti-
tutable. All geometries can be thought without contradiction, whereas
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
cognizable ones are limited, and this limitation overlaps finite consti-
tutability. All in all, it was for this reason that Kant set up the distinc-
tions between thing-in-itself and phenomena, thinking and cognition.
Therefore, we must acknowledge that Kant’s theory is not in the
least obsolete; indeed it assumes a strong position in contemporary
theories of mathematical foundations.
Kant was aware that by taking up any axiom, an alternative geome-
try could be produced without contradiction; yet, at the same time,
he did consider space and time—the basic forms of sensuous intuition—
to be Euclidean. For this reason, he is thought to have grounded Eu-
clidean geometry and Newtonian physics philosophically. Moreover,
his thinking has even been used as a basis to counter non-Euclidean
geometry. But, as I have been arguing, just the opposite is closer to
the truth. His starting point was that, in order for non-Euclidean
geometry to be constituted, Euclidean geometry was a sine qua non.
One of the methods to prove the consistency of an axiomatic system
is to appeal to an intuitive model. For example, in Riemannian
geometry, the axiomatic system takes the sphere of Euclidean geom-
etry as its model; it then assumes a plane to be a sphere in the Eu-
clidean system, a point to be a point on the sphere, and a straight
line to be the greater circle. By so doing, the individual axioms of
Riemannian geometry can be transferred into the theorems of Eu-
clidean geometry. Which is to say that, inasmuch as Euclidean geom-
etry is consistent, so too is non-Euclidean geometry. However, since
the consistency of Euclidean geometry cannot be proven in and of
itself, one has to appeal to intuition, after all. Thus the problematic
of non-Euclidean geometry eventually circles back to Euclidean
One should note in passing, however, that the crux of the formal-
ism of David Hilbert (1862–1943) lies in jettisoning this problematic and
its procedures. In his Foundations of Geometry [Grundlagen der Geometrie,
1899], he insisted that not only Euclid’s fifth postulate but also
other definitions and postulates are by no means self-evident truths,
in part because concepts such as ‘point’ and ‘straight line’ have no
meaning in and of themselves. So Hilbert formalized mathematics
into symbolic logic. This is not to say, however, that just any geome-
tries can be constituted. He set up a precise standard of judgment as
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to whether or not three measures can be satisfied within any
axiomatic system: (1)completeness (all theorems can be derived from
an axiomatic system); (2) independence (there are theorems which
can no longer be proven if any proposition is extracted from an ax-
iomatic system); and (3) consistency (it is impossible to prove mutu-
ally contradictory theorems within an axiomatic system). Hereby,
Hilbert sought to ground mathematics, not by intuitive self-
evidence, but solely by theoretical consistency. For this, he was criti-
cized by intuitionists; but to adhere strictly to intuitionism would in-
exorably limit the territory of mathematics. In response, therefore,
while Hilbert did adopt the finitistic stance advocated by intuition-
ists, he also still sought to ground mathematics without resorting to
intuition. This was the so-called Hilbert’s Program (developed
1917–1925), and it was basically Kantian in inspiration.
Finally, however, Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) pushed Hilbert’s Pro-
gram literally to the limit, by demonstrating that it (particularly its
third standard) falls inexorably into self-referential paradox.
Gödel’s proof (first advanced in 1931) was executed within a persis-
tent formalism in its argument that, inasmuch as formalism is taken
for granted as a premise, it automatically reveals its paradox. And
this argument also helped implement the rupture of Russellian logi-
cism. The basic lesson of Gödel’s proof is that mathematical truth is
not necessarily expressed within the formal axiomatic system; in
other words, there can be truths which are not formally grounded.
But an additional lesson, arguably equally important, is this: inas-
much as a mathematical system is consistent, it cannot prove its own
consistency. Yet we neither need to lament nor get overly excited by
the absence of the mathematical ground Gödel revealed.
The dream of achieving a solid foundation by way of a formal ax-
iomatic system was never inherent in mathematics itself; this dream
was informed by metaphysics, for which only analytic judgment is
sound. And it was metaphysics, in this precise sense, that Kant
sought to undermine. But inasmuch as metaphysics relies on mathe-
matics, this critique first had to be executed in mathematics—before
throwing the result back into philosophy. Gödel’s meta-mathematical
critique had such a function in the history of mathematics. In
this sense, Gödelian ‘deconstruction’ can be connected to Kant’s
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
transcendental critique. In any case, what I want to stress is that,
from today’s standpoint, Kant was entirely correct when he deemed
mathematics a synthetic judgment. As Kant maintained, synthetic
judgment is an expansive judgment [Erweiterungsurteil]. And so it is
that mathematics has developed in the past and will continue to do
so in the future. In his later years, Wittgenstein spoke of mathemat-
ics as a motley bundle of inventions. In this expression, he, too, af-
firmed with Kant that mathematics is a synthetic judgment.
2.2 The Linguistic Turn
Philosophers of the postlinguistic turn tend to accuse Kant of having
remained within the philosophy of subjectivity. But this claim is sim-
ply not true, and conceals the true radicality of his thought. For
what Kant problematized as the activity of subjectivity was in actual-
ity language. Kant’s saying that phenomena are constituted by the
form of sensibility and by the category of understanding is equiva-
lent to saying that they are linguistically constituted. Not by chance,
a neo-Kantian philosopher like Ernst Cassirer renamed them “sym-
bolic form.” For this reason, the prospect of going ‘beyond’ Kant by
appealing to the linguistic turn can only be misleading. To make
this point clear, I will refer to Wittgenstein, since he is commonly
embraced by linguistic turn thinkers.
Returning to Gödel for a brief moment, it is not as if his proof
paralyzed the whole practice called mathematics. It rendered obso-
lete only that part of the system which is infallibly deduced from an
axiom. Which is to say that Gödel liberated mathematics from the
bind of infallibility with which it had been unfairly charged from
without. This didn’t shock Wittgenstein. Here is how he spoke of his
position with regard to Russell: “It is my task, not to attack Russell’s
logic from within, but from without;” and with regard to Gödel: “My
task is not to talk about (e.g.) Gödel’s proof, but to by-pass it.”
do those expressions, “from without” and “to by-pass,” mean? That
Gödel “attacks Russell’s logic from within” means that he, in effect,
deconstructs Russell’s formal system by inducing its undecidability
from within. So is Wittgenstein then declaring that he would do the
same thing “from without?” Not precisely. The fact that Wittgenstein
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spoke so much about Russell and so little about Gödel, in the
climate in which the “Incompleteness Theorem” was giving mathe-
matical society such a salutary shock, only speaks of Wittgenstein’s
antipathy toward Gödel’s position, and brings Wittgenstein closer to
Kant’s transcendental critique.
Gödel was a tacit Platonist. He demonstrated the undecidability of
Cantor’s continuum hypothesis, but with respect to the fallacy of
that hypothesis, it is said that Gödel claimed he could intuit it
through meditation, if not prove it formally. He ‘acted out’ the
performance of negatively proving the absence of a foundation by
way of formal demonstration only because he believed a priori in
the mathematical substance that would require no further founda-
tion. Instead of writing positively, he implies negatively. If so, wasn’t
Gödel’s “negative theology”—deconstructing the formal ground-
ing with a make-believe faith—the true target of Wittgenstein’s
antagonism, much more than Russell’s wholehearted faith in the
In his late career, Wittgenstein focused on a radical reconsidera-
tion of the procedure of proof—the premise for Gödel’s undecidabil-
ity as opposed to decidability. Mathematical thinking is canonically
seen as infallible only insofar as it is consistently deduced from an
axiom. Wittgenstein thrust two explosive contingencies into this sys-
tem of faith. The first of these contingencies is the practical and his-
torical nature of mathematics, namely, the index of its heterogeneity
and excess, which cannot be reduced to a basic axiomatic system. In
the case of Gödel’s proof, it is based upon a translation from the
foundations of non-Euclidean geometry: first, into Euclidean geom-
etry, and second, into natural numbers. As Wittgenstein relates this
What is it to coordinate one system of proofs with another? It involves a
translation rule by means of which proved propositions of the one can be
translated into proved propositions of another.
Now it is possible to imagine some—or all—of the proof systems of pre-
sent-day mathematics as having been coordinated in such a way with one
system, say that of Russell. So that all proofs could be carried out in the sys-
tem, even though in a roundabout way. So would there then be only the
single system—no longer that many?—But then it must surely be resolved
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
into the many—One part of the system will process the properties of
trigonometry, another those of algebra, and so on. Thus one can say that
different techniques are used in these parts.
Certainly, Wittgenstein opposed the projects of Russell, inter alia, to
ground the whole of mathematical practice in set theory. For in-
stance, according to Russell, ‘1, 2, 3, . . .’ can be translated into
‘1, 1 ϩ1, (1 ϩ1) ϩ 1, . . .’ as a grounding. With this method, how-
ever, any even moderately larger equation (say, 84 ϫ24 ϭ2,016) be-
comes too cumbersome. According to the Wittgenstein who noted
“A mathematical proof must be perspicuous,”
it is definitely
not perspicuous, whereas with the decimal system it becomes per-
fectly perspicuous. In Russell’s view, calculation in the cardinal sys-
tem (1, 1 ϩ1, [1 ϩ1] ϩ 1, . . .) is grounded and authentic; in
Wittgenstein’s, even calculation using the decimal system is a mathe-
matical invention and a system of proofs in and of itself. “I want to
say that: if you have a proof-pattern that cannot be taken in, and by a
change in notation you turn it into one that can, then you are pro-
ducing a proof, where there was none before.”
For Wittgenstein, it
was simply no longer necessary to prove mathematical systems by
means of a “general foundation.” As he put it, “it is not something
behind the proof, but the proof, that proves.”
New forms of expres-
sion or new mathematical proofs automatically produce new con-
cepts in and by themselves. For example:
Now surely one could simply say: if a man had invented calculating in the
decimal system—that would have been a mathematical invention!—Even if
he had already got Russell’s Principia Mathematica.
It [mathematics] forms ever new rules: is always building new roads for traf-
fic; by extending the network of the old ones.
But the mathematician is not a discoverer: he is an inventor.
From time to time in mathematics it happens that identical theo-
rems arise from different fields and contexts. Rather than consider-
ing them as one and the same, however, Wittgenstein, who
understood mathematics as consisting of multiple systems, consid-
ered that they belong to different systems of rules. It was in this con-
text that he wrote, as we have seen, “I should like to say:
mathematics is a MOTLEY of techniques and proof—And upon this
6715 CH02 UG 1/29/03 7:45 PM Page 67
is based its manifold applicability and its importance.”
Thus what
Wittgenstein objected to was founding multiple systems of rules upon
a single system. But this is not to say that mathematical polysystems
are completely separate and unrelated. Though they are translatable
into (i.e., interchangeable with) each other, they do not share the
same system. “Family resemblances” was the name he gave to such “a
complicated network of similarities overlapping and crisscrossing.”
Instead of producing something common to all that we call language, I am
saying that these phenomena have no one thing in common which makes
us use the same word for all, but that they are related to one another in
many different ways. And it is because of this relationship, or these relation-
ships, that we call them all “language.”
Likewise, what are grouped together under the umbrella term ‘math-
ematics’ are polysystems that cannot be centralized. Wittgenstein
stressed this heterogeneity not only because mathematics deals with
heterogeneous Nature in a practical manner—no less than do the
various sciences—but also, and more important, because hetero-
geneity comes from an acknowledgment of the other who cannot be
interiorized. And this is the second contingency, the first being the
practical and historical nature of mathematics.
Wittgenstein’s critique of formalism was thus focused on its ten-
dency to exclude the otherness of the other, the contingency of the
relation to the other. Generally speaking, mathematical proofs ap-
pear to be done automatically and peremptorily. But Wittgenstein
stressed that, as to subjects following rules, they are less automatic
than compulsory. This position is reminiscent of the Plato—though
unlike Gödel’s Plato—who associated geometric proof with dia-
logue. Or more precisely, if Plato made mathematics infallible, it was
by way of introducing the proof as a dialogue in the sense of collabo-
rative inquiry.
In the Meno, Plato’s Socrates induces a boy who is not well-
educated in geometry to prove a theorem. In this demonstration,
Socrates proves that there is neither “teaching” nor “learning,” but
only “recollection” [anámnesis]. This is known as “Meno’s paradox”
or the paradox of pedagogy. The proof is executed in the form of a
“dialogue,” but a peculiar one in which the only thing Socrates need
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
say is, “You see Meno, that I am not teaching . . . only asking.”
prerequisite to the dialogue is a rule that stipulates: ‘Upon the ac-
ceptance of a basic premise (axiom), one must do nothing to con-
tradict it’. Proof becomes unattainable at any moment if the boy
utters anything contradictory to what he has said previously. In
other words, the boy has always already been taught to follow the
rules, which he then ‘recollects’. Prior to the dialogue, he already
shares the a priori rules. Who taught them to him?
There is nothing extraordinary about Socrates’ method. It is
based on specific Athenian legal institutions. Nicholas Rescher has
reconsidered dialectics in terms of those forms of disputation and
courtroom procedure in which an interlocutor (prosecutor) pre-
sents his opinion, and an opponent (defendant) counters his point,
followed by the interlocutor’s response.
In this way, the first inter-
locutor’s point does not have to constitute an absolutely infallible,
indisputable thesis. As long as no effective counterproposal is raised
against the initial assertion, it is understood to be valid and conse-
quential. In such argumentation, the interlocutor bears the onus
probandi, the burden of proof; and the defendant is not required to
give testimony. Socrates’ method clearly follows this course. It is sig-
nificant that Plato began the Meno by describing the case of Socrates
himself, who believed so strongly in the dialogic justice that he ac-
cepted his own death as a result of a verdict. For the Socratic
method, even if the verdict were found to be unjust, it is the process
of justice itself that is of primary importance—and Socrates acknowl-
edged as true only what passed through this process.
In many courts of law, both opponents must obey a common rule
that technically allows the prosecutor and the defense attorney to
exchange roles at any time. Those who do not acknowledge and ad-
here to the legal language game are either ordered out of court or
ruled incompetent by the court. In this sort of game, no matter how
forcefully or enthusiastically they might oppose one another, nei-
ther opponent occupies the position of “the other.” As Rescher
notes, this dialogue always has the potential to become a mono-
logue. Indeed, in the works of Aristotle and Hegel, dialectics did be-
come a monologue. And though Plato’s dialogues were written in
the form of conversation, finally they, too, must be considered
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dramatic monologues—as Bahktin pointed out in Problems of
Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Western philosophy thus began as an introspective—
that is, monologic—dialogue, or, alternatively, dialogic monologue.
Mathematics is privileged because its knowledge has a compelling
power far beyond that of the subjectivity I. Which does not mean,
however, that the power is due to the characteristics of mathematics
in and of itself; rather it is thanks to Plato’s and Euclid’s notion that
only that which survives the process of legal argumentation can be
deemed mathematics. In this manner, mathematical proof is pre-
sumed to be produced by intersubjectivity, that is, by that which lies
beyond individual cognition. The true Socratic/Platonic invention
is not the idea that reason inheres in the world or the self, as is often
claimed, but rather that only that which goes through the dialogic
process is rational. Those who refuse dialogue, no matter how deep
the truth they may grasp, are irrational. Whether or not the world or
the self contains reason in and of itself ultimately counts for noth-
ing; only those who are subjected to dialogue are rational. And this
is also the standpoint from which the pre-Socratics are scrutinized.
Being rational is equivalent to accepting, as premise, the principle
of dialogue with others. Proof, no matter how it be written, assumes
a compelling power because it includes collaborative scrutiny with
others. Finally, it is thanks to this process that mathematics has been
considered as the norm.
As I have pointed out, Popper’s concept of ‘proof to the contrary’
is based on this same conviction. And Kant’s position, that mathe-
matics is a synthetic judgment, was its most radical critique. Syn-
thetic judgment is universal only insofar as proof to the contrary is
presupposed—not the proof of the other who shares the same sys-
tem of rules, but of the other who does not share the same system of
rules. Kant’s radicalism exists in the fact that he pursued the prob-
lem of alterity in communication deep into mathematics, and that he
did this by introducing the transcendental other, the other who can-
not be internalized into the same system. The transcendental
other—as distinct from the transcendent other, the sacred other
(God)—is a quintessentially secular other who is everywhere and
everytime in front of us. One of later Wittgenstein’s most crucial
contributions is his emphasis on precisely this secular other.
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
Part of Wittgenstein’s skepticism was aimed at the dialogue that
supports the specifically metaphysical foundation of the mathematic
proof. The Wittgensteinian skepticism is connected to the cognition
that mathematics, qua “motley” of various systems of rules and
proofs, cannot be deduced to a single system of rules, if mutual trans-
lation is possible. And his target extended beyond mathematics to
the “language game” in general. But, at the same time, one should
not forget that the privileged position of mathematics, along with its
metaphysics of proof, remained his primary target. Without this as-
pect, what we would have would be just another mundane language
game. Wittgenstein was skeptical of the Platonic dialogue because it
did not take the true other as its counterpart, and thus could always
be converted into a monologue. If a stranger, an ostensible other,
can be internalized, it is because he or she shares the common set of
rules. Strictly speaking, dialogue has to be with the one that engages
the other who does not share the same set of rules. Here is how
Wittgenstein posits the other who cannot be internalized: “Someone
who did not understand our language, a foreigner, who had fairly
often heard someone giving the order: “Bring me a slab!,” might be-
lieve that this whole series of sounds was one word corresponding
perhaps to the word for “building-stone” in his language.”
To com-
municate with foreigners or children is, in other words, to teach a
code to someone who does not yet know it. And in such a case, the
situation is the same from the other’s standpoint: To the other, I am
a foreigner or a child to be taught. Communication with the other
who does not share the same set of rules will inexorably take place in
a teaching/learning relationship. Conventional theories of commu-
nication take for granted a shared system of rules, but in the case of
communication with foreigners or children—or psychotics for that
matter—such a system is absent from the very outset, or never even
possible. This is no exception, but the daily landscape of human
As human beings, we are all born children and learn language
from our parents (or their equivalents). As a result, we come to
share common rules. Likewise, in our daily communication with oth-
ers, we must always have incommensurable domains, though we do
not always remember this surprising fact. Thus communication
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must, in reality, become mutual teaching. If there is a system of com-
mon rules, it is achieved only after the event of the teaching/learn-
ing relationship. In the beginning, this mutual relationship is
asymmetrical. And this is the most fundamental aspect of communi-
cation. Again, this is not an anomaly—it is our daily state of affairs.
Rather, the anomalies are commonly considered to be the ‘normal’
cases, namely, in the dialogue that takes for granted a common set of
rules, as one big merry party or symposium. Therefore, Wittgen-
stein’s introduction of the other into his reflection on communica-
tion is equal to having reintroduced the initial asymmetric
relationship—the one so charged with impossible crossings.
In this context, “teaching” has nothing to do with authoritarian
hierarchy, because the teaching (or psychoanalytic) position is the
lesser one, subordinate to the others’ (or analysand’s) demand for
understanding. In the context of the political economy, teaching is
‘selling’ one’s knowledge to the other. Marx made this fundamental
point very clear in his theory of exchange: The individual commod-
ity never contains the substantial value that classical economists
claimed was immanent in it. It cannot have a value (or even use
value) if it is not sold (exchanged). And, if not sold, it is a thing to
be simply discarded. The “selling” position is subordinated to the
‘choice’ of the buyer (the possessor of money), and their mutual re-
lationship is the epitome of asymmetricity.
To Wittgenstein, the “someone who [does] not understand our
language, a foreigner,” is not simply one among just any example he
might have taken. It is the very other, the sine qua non, in relation
to his “methodical doubt.” To borrow an example, when I shout,
“Bring me a slab!,” I may believe in the existence of a meaning inter-
nal to my utterance, but if it means “building-stone” to the other,
the internal signification is proven to be null and void. Wittgenstein’s
other is he or she who precisely nullifies this entire internal
process—the one who appears as a “bizarre skeptic,” to adopt Saul
Kripke’s expression.
In his early career, Wittgenstein had famously concluded,
“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
In that
case, “whereof one cannot speak” meant art and religion, but not yet
science and math. In this issue of categorical distinction, it is fairly
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
easy to associate Wittgenstein with Kant. For instance, in Wittgenstein’s
Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin have little trouble in de-
scribing how Wittgenstein developed his thinking in the Kantian/
Kierkegaardian atmosphere of Vienna, and the ‘character traits’ he
developed there never changed, even throughout his later working
life in England, including, initially, with Russell. But what about
Wittgenstein’s later work? In his theory of the language game in
Philosophical Investigations, he banned the disciplinary division be-
tween science, ethics, and art—making it look, perhaps, as if he had
finally distanced himself from Kantianism. However, the core of the
Kantian critique has nothing substantial to do any categorical divi-
sions; instead, it lies in the introduction of alterity into the architec-
tonic of the categorical universe. If this is true, then the later
Wittgenstein is even more Kantian than early Wittgenstein. It is here,
in this problematic of alterity—the other who is empirically om-
nipresent but grasped only transcendentally—that Kant and
Wittgenstein, most radically, most transcritically, intersect.
There is another canonical perception that Wittgenstein advo-
cated the precedence of social language over private language,
namely, solipsism. While this sounds plausible and benevolent,
finally it buries the radial crux of his skepticism—nullifying it.
Wittgenstein’s “skeptic” really attacks only the tacit solipsistic nature
of intersubjectivity or dialogue, whenever it takes the form of “apod-
ictic proof.” It is high time for us to redefine “solipsism.” It is not the
idea that only I exist, but that what is true of and for me is common to
everyone. This apparently innocuous, but in fact draconian move
functions as a tacit politics of internalizing the other. And, as tacit, it
is much harder to refute or combat than more explicit moves.
Furthermore, and for the same reason, I suggest that it is also high
time to redefine “dialogue.” To repeat the main point, strictly speak-
ing it is that which occurs between others who do not share a com-
mon set of rules, namely, that which takes place in an irrevocably
asymmetrical relationship. And others are just like that, but they are
different from what anthropologists call strangers (or the uncanny).
As with Freud, unheimlich (uncanny) originally meant the familiar
(heimlich). Herein exists the mechanism of self-projection (as in self-
image). Furthermore, our ‘other’ is not the Absolute Other that is
6715 CH02 UG 1/29/03 7:45 PM Page 73
again a self-projection. What is truly crucial and problematic to us,
in contrast, is the otherness of the everyday, relative other.
If these points are not taken into consideration, serious confusion
will inevitably occur, as has happened with respect to Wittgenstein.
His theory has been mistaken as a sort of sociological observation.
One salient example is what has happened with his concept of
“language game.” Today, it is often conflated with, and usurped by,
the Durkheimian fait social or the Saussurean langue. To be sure, in
fact Wittgenstein did often use the figure of chess, much like Saus-
sure. In Saussure, the figure shows this: first, that the essence of lan-
guage exists in a form that is irrespective of the material, such as
sounds and letters; and, second, that the meanings of the ‘pieces’
exist in the rules of their movements, and that these are encoded
within the relational system (of difference) that encompasses other
pieces. For this reason, if the functions and arrangements of the
pieces were altered, the ‘identical’ set of pieces would be playing to-
tally different games. In sum, the figure of chess suggests that lan-
guage is a differential formal system, independent of references and
meanings—which are themselves the products of the system. This is
formalism, or at least one type. And Wittgenstein’s theory of the lan-
guage game was precisely poised to undermine the practical and his-
torical nature of mathematics’ very premises of this version of the
formalist idea. The figures of chess, indeed of games in general, lead
one to draw the inference that a rule can be presented explicitly.
For instance, grammar is considered a rule of language. But do
those who are able to speak, say, fluent Japanese systematically or
systemically know the grammar? Most often not, including myself.
Grammar was originally conceptualized as a method for studying
foreign or dead classical languages. In a strict sense, grammar is not
a rule but a discovered (read also: produced) regularity without
which foreigners might never efficiently master a language. On the
other hand, fully knowing the grammar of a language one already
speaks is not merely unnecessary but also simply impossible for the
speaking subject. Before the advent of modern nationalism, people
in Europe and elsewhere might never have dreamt that their vernac-
ular languages could have grammars, let alone grammars imposed
upon them, not to mention other kinds of rules.
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
A rule of a language is discovered from the point of view of
foreigners who need to learn—not of those who speak it. Which is to
say that “I” do not need to and cannot know the grammar, say, of
the “Japanese I am already speaking.” At the same time, however, I
can point out the grammatical mistakes in foreigners’ speech.
Which is to say that, technically, I do “know” the grammar. Nonethe-
less, I cannot present a grammatical “basis” to explain the mistakes
of foreigners. I can simply point out that “we do not say it that way.”
It is in this sense that I “don’t know” Japanese grammar; what do I
know is only the “use.”
Adults do not and cannot normally teach the rules of language;
they simply talk to their infants. When the infants begin to talk,
becoming mature, adults either correct their mistakes, or just laugh.
While adults do not know the rules as rules, they “practice” them all
the time—and by so doing they also “teach.” If ‘we’ can teach children
grammar at all, it is only because ‘they’ already ‘know’ that language.
It is possible to say this is all that is indicated by “Meno’s paradox.”
“I have just said that you are a rascal, and now you ask me if I can
teach you, when I say there is no such thing as teaching, only recollec-
Though a rule exists, it cannot be explicitly presented.
In spite of it all, however, teaching does exist. The boy who has
managed to demonstrate a geometric theorem by way of a dialogue
with Socrates has already been taught the rule. On the other hand,
as Plato also stresses, there is no teaching—in the sense that a
teacher cannot present the rules explicitly. Wherein exists teaching/
learning a rule, therein exists something that cannot be rationally
elucidated any further. As noted earlier, Plato tried to solve this para-
dox by appealing to the “doctrine of recollection” [anámnesis]—
knowing full well that it was a myth, a “noble lie” [gennaion pseudos],
‘noble’ in the sense of ‘well-bred’, which is in part only to say ‘lin-
guistically competent’—thus tightly closing the tautologous circle.
The “doctrine of recollection” is based upon the idea that the identi-
cal exists fundamentally within everyone, collectively. So when Kant
speaks of the a priori form or category, it sounds as though he were
restating the “recollection” of the identical. But Kant, almost
uniquely, is not. His formulation of mathematics qua a priori syn-
thetic judgment was really posed in order to refute the very idea that
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mathematics is an analytical judgment, namely, a “proof.” Synthetic
judgment is posited with respect to—and to respect—the problematic
synthesis of a radically split sensibility and understanding; and what
renders this split is the existence of the other, of polysystems. This is
what Kant sought to address with his concept the thing-in-itself.
2.3 Transcendental Apperception
In Critique of Pure Reason, Kant seems to maintain that cognition
(qua synthetic judgment) is established by transcendental subjectiv-
ity (or apperception). This does not entail, however, that cognition
(e.g., that of natural science) is established without the intervention
of other subjects, unlike the case of art. Neither does this entail that
synthetic judgment is automatically and easily established. Rather, in
his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant focuses on a specific inquiry: If cogni-
tion, which must be synthetic judgment, can be established at all,
then in what form? Kant’s presupposition of the transcendental sub-
ject (or apperception) has also been criticized by postlinguistic turn
philosophers. But it is impossible to eradicate the problematic whole
proposed by Kant (and, for that matter, by Descartes) by shedding
light on thinking or the subject from the vantage point of language
Saussure insisted that language is a social system. If so, how can he
grasp langue, which is a synchronic system? It is impossible to iden-
tify this problematic empirically, quite simply because it is impossi-
ble to survey the whole event of langue, that is, all the varieties of
words used at this moment. It follows that what Saussure calls
langue —to him, as French speaker—is technically the sum of all the
French words he knows at this moment. In other words, Saussure’s
linguistics really departs from transcendental introspection. He says
that langue is not substantive; it exists only in the speaking subject.
He rejects the conventional account, according to which a sign ex-
presses a certain meaning, because whenever there is a meaning to
a “speaking subject,” then there is also a form that discriminates the
meaning—and the reverse is impossible. Langue exists not as an ob-
ject, but is considered to exist insofar as meanings are mutually com-
municated. Saussure also spoke of langue as a synchronic system—but
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
such a whole is only presumed after the fact, from his own language
experience. In the Saussurean system, and its legacy, a word is the
“synthesis” of the signifiant (the sensible) and the signifié (the supra-
sensible). But the crucial point here is that such a synthesis is estab-
lished only ex post facto—that it makes sense to me. In the end, when
Saussure suggested that form (le signifiant) constitutes a differential,
relational system, the architectonic of the system tacitly took as a
premise what Kant had already called “transcendental apperception.”
It is Roman Jakobson who began to clarify this point. He opposed
Saussure’s notion that “in language there are only differences, and
without positive terms.”
He thought it would be possible to order the
phonetic organization Saussure had left in a jumble by reconstruct-
ing it as a bundle of binary oppositions.
Modern specialists in the field of acoustics wonder with bewilderment how
it is possible that the human ear has no difficulty in recognizing the great
variety of sounds in a language given that they are so numerous and their
variations so imperceptible. Can it really be that it is a purely auditory fac-
ulty that is involved here. No, not at all! What we recognize in spoken lan-
guage is not sound differences in themselves but the different uses to which
they are put by the language, i.e., differences which, though without mean-
ing in themselves, are used in discriminating one from another entities of a
higher level (morphemes, words).
Phonemes are not the same as voice/sounds; they are “form” that
comes into existence as differentiality only after entities of a higher
level are presupposed. The same can be said of morphemes, words,
and even sentences; they, too, are all extracted as differentiality (or
form) only when entities of respectively higher levels are presupposed.
This means that “structures” always and tacitly are premised on
the “transcendental subjectivity” that synthesizes them. Nevertheless,
structuralists thought it possible to do away with, and even deny,
transcendental subjectivity, because they presumed the existence of
a function that, though nonexistent substantially, makes a system
a system: Thus the zero sign. Jakobson introduced the zero
phoneme in order to complete the phonemic system. “A zero-
phoneme,” he wrote, “is opposed to all other French phonemes by
the absence both of distinctive features and of a consistent sound
characteristic. On the other hand, the zero-phoneme is opposed to
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the absence of any phonemes whatsoever.”
Zero signs of this sort
undoubtedly derived from mathematics. For instance, the mathe-
matical structure formulated by Nicolas Bourbaki (André Weil et al.)
is a transformational rule that is not visible like form, but is an invisi-
ble function. Included as a sine qua non within a transformational
rule is a nontransformational function. The zero phoneme Jakobson
established corresponds to the unit element e in mathematical trans-
formational groups. Owing to this, a bundle of oppositional rela-
tions of phonemes can constitute a structure. Lévi-Strauss was
inspired by this assertion of the orderly composition of chaos:
“Structural linguistics will certainly play the same renovating role
with respect to the social sciences that nuclear physics, for example,
has played for the physical sciences.”
And he applied the Kleinian
group (as algebraic structure) in his analysis of the heterogeneous
kinship structures among ‘uncivilized’ societies. It was here that
structuralism in the narrow sense was born.
In the final analysis, however, the zero sign is a restatement of
transcendental subjectivity—the nothingness that constitutes the
structure of a system—and it is impossible to do away with it. Zero
was invented in India, and originally the name for not moving a bead
on an abacus-like counting board. If it were not for zero, the num-
bers, say, 205 and 25 would be indistinguishable. In other words,
zero is “opposed to the absence of any number whatsoever.” It intro-
duced the place-value system. In Sanskrit the word for zero is the
same as the word for the Buddhist concept of emptiness, sunyata. It
is not an exaggeration to say that Buddhist philosophy was devel-
oped around this concept.
When Gilles Deleuze observes that
“structuralism is inseparable from a new kind of transcendental phi-
losophy, where places surpass what occupies them,”
he neglects to
add that a transcendental philosophy was already in place in the
place-value system. Thus structuralism began with an introduction
of the “zero sign,” though thereafter structuralists have not both-
ered to examine its philosophical implications. Instead, they believed
they had managed to clear out the ‘modern thought’ originated in
the ego cogito. By the time they thought it possible to do away with
subjectivity, however, they had already and tacitly conceived of sub-
jectivity as a premise, and then forgotten it.
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The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
Returning to Saussure, one has to see the significance of his
ambiguity—the source of Jakobson’s discontent. Saussure advocated
that in language there are only differences. He saw language as
value—an idea that represented only chaos for Jakobson. It is impor-
tant to note, however, that when Saussure saw language as value he
had already assumed the existence of the other, that is, different sys-
tems of languages (langues). The emphasis on “only differences in
language” was not only made in reference to within one relational sys-
tem (langue), but from the beginning was also addressed without—to
the existence of a multitude of relational systems (langues). Which is
to say that Saussure discovered langue by way of an introspection,
while at the same time presupposing the externality beyond intro-
spection, or the alterity beyond internalization. Saussure’s skeptical
approach toward linguistics departed from the very sense of differ-
ence. Accordingly, it might be said that Saussure’s linguistics was
a Kantian critique of two existing tendencies: on the one hand,
Wilhelm von Humboldt’s early nineteenth-century linguistics, which
considered languages as Volksgeist, and, on the other, historical lin-
guistics, which observed the transformation of language, as if due to
a natural scientific law, as an object independent of consciousness.
Against the former, Saussure’s approach rejected the internal coher-
ence of language, and emphasized it against the latter. In other
words, his ambivalence lay in the fact that he considered langue as
an enclosed synchronic system, even as he negated such an internal
From this perspective, the meaning of Saussure’s statement that
language is social becomes clear. He is not simply saying that lan-
guage is a fait social (Durkheim) beyond individual consciousness;
nor is he simply saying that individual terms exist only in a larger rela-
tional system. Those accounts consider language only as one langue —
one system or community, and as such they are restatements of
transcendental subjectivity. But language is properly social only when
it is seen as, and in, communication with the other—with those oth-
ers who belong to other systems of rules (langues) or communities.
As I noted earlier, Wittgenstein sought to scrutinize linguistic com-
munication in the context of teaching foreigners. He negated pri-
vate language not from the conventional position—that language is
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a rule of a community—but from a heterology that sees language in
that kind of “social” communication wherein those who belong to
different communities encounter each other. Therefore, if there is
such a thing at all as the linguistic turn, it exists not in the denial of
subjectivity from the vantage point of language, but rather in a dis-
covery of subject within the “doubt” fostered in the field of social dif-
ference. Such is the transcritical critical place.
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3.1 Subject and Its Topos
Kant’s transcendental critique has been attacked for being a succes-
sor to the Cartesian method that constitutes the world by way of the
cogito. It is possible to defend Kant against this position by pointing
out a number of characteristics that dissociate him from Descartes.
But instead of doing this now, I would like to reconsider Descartes
himself, who is being nearly unanimously attacked nowadays. In his
Discourse on Method (1637), Descartes speaks autobiographically about
the motives behind his overall skepticism: reading old books he had
learned that discourses on truth vary according to different histori-
cal contexts; and by traveling he had learned that truths themselves
are the constructs of grammars and customs of communities. He
and, having recognized since then, in traveling, that all those who have sen-
timents very contrary to ours are not, for that reason, barbarians or savages,
but that many of them make use of reason as much as or more than we do;
and, having considered how much different one and the same man, with
his very same mind, being brought up from his infancy among the French
or the Germans, becomes from that which he would be if he had always
lived among the Chinese or the cannibals; and how, even down to the very
fashions of our clothing, the same thing that pleased us ten years ago, and
that will perhaps please us once again ten years hence, now seems to us ex-
travagant and ridiculous—so that it is much more custom and example that
persuade us than any certain knowledge, and yet the voices of the majority
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are not a proof that be worth anything for truths even a little difficult to
discover, because it is much more likely that one man alone had found
them than that a whole people had: having learned, having recognized and
having considered all this, I say, I was unable to choose anyone whose opin-
ions might have seemed to me to have to be preferred to those of the oth-
ers, and I found myself constrained, as it were, to undertake to guide myself
by myself.
It is commonly said that Descartes was a solipsist who closed off dia-
logue and sought to secure truth by way of his concept of ego. As is
evident in the passage just cited, however, Cartesian doubt begins
from his realization that the truths people believe in are simply de-
termined by the “example and custom” of the community to which
they belong, namely, by shared rules and paradigms. That is to say
that Descartes had already been observing the world in the manner
of a cultural anthropologist. As I pointed out earlier, many postlin-
guistic-turn philosophers reject methods such as his, motivated as
they appear to be in introspection. But the reason Descartes himself
tended toward introspection in the first place was because his prede-
cessors of the philosophia scholastica—whether nominalist or realist—
had all thought within the frame of the “grammar” of the
Indo-European language group. In this respect, the Cartesian cogito
is nothing if not the awareness that our thought is always already
bound by language. In Kant’s terminology, this is the “transcenden-
tal” standpoint toward language. The transcendental position is
equivalent to bracketing the imagined self-evidence of the empirical
consciousness in order to reveal the (unconscious) conditions that
constitute it. What is crucial here is that the transcendental stand-
point inexorably accompanies a certain kind of subjectivity.
According to Wittgenstein, as we have also seen, skepticism is
made possible by a language game; it is a part of the game. Cer-
tainly, today, beginning from Cartesian doubt is already a language
game. But what Descartes doubted originally was the specific game
of skepticism that had been dominant since antiquity. As he framed
the problem of doubt in Discourse on Method, “Not that I were, in
order to do this, to imitate the skeptics, who doubt only in order to
doubt, and who affect being always undecided: for, on the contrary,
my whole plan tended only toward assuring me, and toward casting
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aside the shifting earth and the sand in order to find the rock or the
Certainly, today, this doubt is incorporated into modern phi-
losophy, supporting as it does the philosophy of subjectivity. And,
isn’t precisely such an institutionalized doubt what Wittgenstein
sought to undermine? In fact, Wittgenstein, too, called the proper
stance from which to inquire about philosophical issues, from the
vantage point of language, “transcendental.”
Here it is possible to
find Wittgenstein’s otherwise concealed “change of attitude,”
though he never spoke of it himself. Meanwhile, many of those who
advocate the linguistic turn in the philosophical context, though
often invoking Wittgenstein, forget the problematic of a certain
cogito that is already inexorably involved in the change of attitude.
Let us take up the example of another one of Descartes’ major
critics, Lévi-Strauss. Speaking of a traditional ethnographer, he criti-
cizes the cogito as follows:
“Here they are,” he says of his contemporaries, “unknown strangers, non-
beings to me since they so wished it! But I detached from them and from
everything, what am I? This is what remains for me to seek” (First Walk).
Paraphrasing Rousseau, the ethnographer could exclaim as he first sets eyes
on his chosen savages, “Here they are, then, unknown strangers, non-beings
to me, since I wished it so! And I, detached from them and from everything,
what am I? This is what I must find out first.”
To attain acceptance of oneself in others (the goal assigned to human
knowledge by the ethnologist), one must first deny the self in oneself.
To Rousseau we owe the discovery of this principle, the only one on
which to base the science of man. Yet it was to remain inaccessible and in-
comprehensible as long as there reigned a philosophy which, taking the
Cogito as its point of departure, was imprisoned by the hypothetical evi-
dences of the self; and which could aspire to founding a physics only at the
expense of founding sociology and even a biology. Descartes believes that
he proceeds directly from a man’s interiority to the exteriority of the world,
without seeing that societies, civilizations—in other words, worlds of men—
place themselves between these two extremes.
I return momentarily to Descartes, after noting that while Lévi-
Strauss does pass Descartes off as a villain here, this move is strategic.
His real targets are certain successors of Cartesianism in France—
Sartre in particular. On the other hand, Discourse on Method had al-
ready been written from the standpoint of an anthropologist. The
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Cartesian cogito was originally what James Clifford called an “an-
thropological Cogito.” Writing as an anthropologist, Descartes
continues the passage as follows:
It is true that, so long as I did nothing but consider the customs of other
men, I found there hardly anything of which to assure myself, and that I no-
ticed there almost as much diversity as I had previously done among the
opinions of philosophers. So the greatest profit that I derived therefrom
was that, seeing many things that, although they seem to us very extravagant
and ridiculous, do not cease to be commonly accepted and approved among
other great peoples, I learned not to believe too firmly anything of which I
had been persuaded only by example and custom; and thus I delivered my-
self, little by little, from many errors that can obfuscate our natural light
and render us less capable of listening to reason. But, after I had spent
some years thus studying in the book of the world and trying to acquire
some experience, I one day made the resolution to study within myself, too,
and to employ all the powers of my mind in choosing the paths that
I should follow. In this I succeeded much better, it would seem to me, than
if I had never been away, either from my country or from my book.
Reading this, it is impossible for us not to associate Descartes with
Lévi-Strauss, among the most merciless of his critics. For instance,
the retrospective style in Tristes tropiques (1955) is in important
respects reminiscent of the Discourse on Method. After receiving his
degree in philosophy, as he relates his story, Lévi-Strauss chose to go
abroad instead of continuing study in France—he had hoped to go
to Japan first, but could not. It is likely that he would have gone any-
where that was not the West. In other words, he did not go abroad
as an anthropologist. But at this moment, his anthropological
inquiry—albeit informal—had already begun moving “away from his
country and his book.” Or, more precisely, this was a commence-
ment less of anthropological research than the continuation of a
certain, as yet unnamable, “philosophical investigation.” Descartes’
primary concerns had also not entailed the experience of the plural-
ity of places he traveled; and, for his part, Lévi-Strauss expresses
this laconic disclaimer about traveling at the beginning of Tristes
Tropiques: “I hate traveling and explorers.” For traveling and explo-
ration simply consume and dissolve difference: by traveling we never
encounter the difference or the other who resists our internaliza-
tion. What Descartes saw in the ‘uncivilized’ people he encountered
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were not fascinating, interesting strangers, but the other who rejects
empathy à la Rousseau.
Lévi-Strauss adds a further claim in Tristes tropiques: “The fact that
so much effort and expenditure has to be wasted on reaching the
object of our studies bestows no value on that aspect of our profes-
sion, and should be seen rather as its negative side. The truths that
we seek so far afield only become valid when they have been sepa-
rated from this dross.”
The truths Lévi-Strauss seeks so far afield—
precisely as had Descartes before him—exist only when they have
been separated out from the pluralism encountered by traveling
and expedition. The ultimate weapon Lévi-Strauss uses against this
process is precisely what Descartes’ weapon had been: mathematics
(structuralism). Lévi-Strauss acknowledges the existence of universal
“reason” against/within the various myths and marriage systems he
eventually encounters. If so, the Lévi-Strauss who considered
Rousseau to be founder of anthropology, seeing in him the “princi-
ple, the only one on which to base the science of man,” should have
quoted Descartes rather than Rousseau, or anybody else.
What is more, Lévi-Strauss encountered the same difficulties as had
Descartes. The “unconscious structure” he grasps is a deductive en-
tity; and, for this reason, it has been subjected to innumerable criti-
cisms by positivist anthropologists. For him, contrary to his critics,
the last standard upon which to judge the adequacy of hypothetical
models lies in whether or not they have a “higher explanatory value”
that is “itself consistent.” And it is the role of experimentation to
examine this value and internal consistency. This is definitely a dif-
ferent method from any that seeks an inductive theorization ad-
duced from the collection of empirical data. To the precise contrary,
this is the Cartesian method par excellence—which is hardly limited
to or by the natural sciences in the narrow sense.
Lévi-Strauss’s method contributed mightily to an intellectual revo-
lution, the advent of structuralism, very much because he chose to
start from the axiomatic (or formal) operation by transcendentally
reducing the empirical consciousness of both the observed and the
observer. Michel Serres has maintained that “structure” should be de-
fined as a sheerly “imported” concept, namely, from contemporary
formal mathematics. Structure as such is achieved “only when the
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formal sets of elements and relations can be extracted” by excluding
content (or meaning); and, as he stresses, the structuralist analysis en-
gendered a new methodical spirit and was an important revolution
with respect to the question of meaning.
But what one must acknowl-
edge precisely here is that the founder of structuralism in this sense was
neither Saussure nor Marx, and certainly not Rousseau, but Descartes.
For he himself innovated mathematics itself instead of just ‘importing’
concepts from mathematics to his philosophy. The axiomatism of con-
temporary mathematics derived not from Euclid’s geometry but from
Descartes’ analytical geometry, which transposed perceptive geometric
figures into the coordinate of numbers. This inevitably introduced the
problem of “real numbers,” as distinct from natural numbers, and led
to the advent of the post-Cantorian theory of sets.
So far, I have deliberately tried to defend Descartes from those who
attack him as an (hypothetical) enemy. But it is impossible to deny the
fact that there was a confusion in Descartes himself which made his
accusers almost inevitable. The problem concerns the discrimination
between “to doubt [dubitare]” and “to think [cogitare]”. In Discourse on
Method, Descartes reflects that the existence of the doubting subject
cannot be denied after doubting everything else. But then, just after
this, he quickly concludes with his famous, or infamous, “I think,
therefore, I am [cogito, ergo sum]”. Nonetheless, “doubting” and
“thinking”—or the “subject of doubt [res dubitans]” and the “subject
of thinking [res cogitans]”—must be different. Descartes posits “think-
ing” as the ground of all actions: “But what, then, am I? A thing that
thinks. What is a thing that thinks? That is to say, a thing that doubts,
perceives, affirms, denies, wills, does not will, that imagines also, and
which feels.”
Kant called this kind of thinking subject a “transcenden-
tal subject of thought ϭX.” (This could also be written as the “tran-
scendental subject,” though I do not necessarily like this kind of word
play.) To Kant it is apperception that can never be represented, and
for him Descartes’ formulation that “it is (or I am) [sum]” is a fallacy.
Cartesian cogito is dogged by the ambiguity between “I doubt” and “I
think”; furthermore, the ambiguity is inevitable as far as trying to
speak of the transcendental ego is concerned. Descartes writes:
For a long time I had noticed that, as for morals, it is sometimes necessary
to follow opinions that one knows to be quite uncertain, all the same as if
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they were indubitable, as has been said above; but, because I then desired to
devote myself solely to the search for the truth, I thought that it was neces-
sary that I were to do completely the contrary, and that I were to reject, as
absolutely false, all that in which I could imagine the least doubt, in order to
see whether there would remain, after that, something in my beliefs that
were entirely indubitable. [. . .] I resolved to feign that all the things that
had ever entered my mind were no more true than the illusions of my
dreams. But, immediately afterward, I took note that, while I wanted thus to
think that everything was false, it necessarily had to be that I, who was think-
ing this, were something. And noticing that this truth—I think, therefore
I am—was so firm and so assured that all the most extravagant suppositions
of the skeptics were not capable of shaking it, I judged that I could accept
it, without scruple, as the first principle of the philosophy that I was seeking.
Note the sudden jump that occurs between “I doubt” and “I think.”
In Descartes, “I doubt” is a personal determination of will. And this
“I” is a singular existence—Descartes himself (1). In a sense, (1) is
an empirical self, and is simultaneously the doubting subject (2),
who doubts the empirical subject (1)—by way of which the transcen-
dental ego (3) is discovered. In Descartes’ discourse, however, the
relationship between these three phases of the ego is blurred.
When Descartes says, “I am [sum],” if he means that his “transcen-
dental ego exists,” it is a fallacy, as Kant said. For the transcendental
ego is something that can only be thought, but cannot be or exist,
that is, it cannot be intuited. On the other hand, Spinoza interpreted
“I think, therefore I am” as neither a syllogism nor a reasoning but
as meaning simply, “I am as I think” or “I am thinking [ego sum cogi-
tans]”; or, even more simply and definitively, “man thinks [homo cogi-
But, speaking more realistically, the Cartesian, “I think,
therefore I am,” means “I am as I doubt [ego sum dubitans].” The “de-
termination” to doubt the self-evidence of the psychological ego
cannot simply originate from a psychological ego, but neither can it
from the transcendental ego that is discovered by doubt. If this is so,
however, what exists? Actually, as I will show later, the correct way of
formulating the question is not, “what exists?” but “who is it?” But
this move requires a detour through Husserl.
The question—What exists?—was hardly irrelevant to Kant. For
in the transcendental critique, the “determination” to bracket em-
pirical self-evidence, or “I criticize [reprehendo],” is omnipresent,
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notwithstanding the fact that Kant did not mention it. The ultimate
importance of the Discourse on Method lies in the fact that it revealed
another problem in the sum: how does the “I” who brackets all self-evi-
dence exist?—though Descartes never touched upon it again after
this particular text. (To Kant, too, the problematic of sum was finally
imperative. As I touch upon later, the Kantian transcendental critique
was not simply abstract and theoretical, but a matter of his own
existence.) On the other hand, Husserl criticized Kant, to develop
transcendental phenomenology, by returning to Descartes. “Accord-
ingly,” Husserl wrote, “one might almost call transcendental phenom-
enology a neo-Cartesianism, even though it is obliged—and precisely
by its radical development of Cartesian motifs—to reject nearly all the
well-known doctrinal content of the Cartesian philosophy.”
In the
place of considering the transcendental ego as apperception, as had
Kant, Husserl considered it, as had Descartes, to be a ground from
which solid science can be deduced, and thought it imperative to de-
velop this line more persistently and rigorously than had his predeces-
sor. In this context, Husserl made a noteworthy point:
We can describe the situation also on the following manner. If the Ego, as
naturally immersed in the world, experiencingly and otherwise, is called
“interested” in the world, then the phenomenologically altered—and, as so
altered, continually maintained—attitude consists in a splitting of the Ego:
in that the phenomenological Ego established himself as “disinterested on-
looker,” above the naively interested Ego. That this takes place is then itself
accessible by means of a new reflection, which, as transcendental, likewise
demands the very same attitude of looking on “disinterestedly”—the Ego’s
sole remaining interest being to see and to describe adequately what he
sees, purely as seen, as what is seen and seen in such and such manner.
Here Husserl not only distinguishes between psychological ego and
phenomenological (or transcendental) ego, but also points out the
being of the I who further observes the “splitting of the Ego” as an
“onlooker.” This ego exists as a will to phenomenological (or tran-
scendental) reduction—which is, for Husserl, equivalent to the “will-
ing” to forge philosophy into a science built on an absolutely solid
ground. In the strict sense, therefore, it is insufficient to point out the
existence of only two kinds of ego—psychological and transcendental.
Husserl continues, “Obviously it can be said that, as an Ego in the
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natural attitude, I am likewise and at all times a transcendental Ego,
but that I know about this only by executing phenomenological re-
Which is to say that there are three egos: the empirical
ego; the ego who seeks to transcendentally reduce that ego; and the
ego who is transcendentally discovered as a result. In this account,
Husserl recovers the distinction between “I doubt” and “I think” that
Descartes had blurred, namely, the distinction between the I who
doubts (or executes the transcendental reduction) and the tran-
scendental subjectivity (who is discovered by it).
Husserl attempts to constitute the world by the transcendental
ego, including other egos, yet he does not consider the ego to be a
substance, as had Descartes. The Husserlian transcendental ego is
the intentional function (noesis) of consciousness, which intervenes
in the intentional object (noema). With this formulation, Husserl
thought he had given philosophy the right to constitute beings from
consciousness. This is different from Fichte’s earlier attempt, in the
more immediate post-Kantian context, to constitute the world by the
transcendental ego. For, in Husserl’s case, the transcendental ego is
sustained by the “willing”—itself an empirical consciousness—that
discovers it by a transcendental change of attitude. But Husserl’s
new distinction confronts him with a serious paradox: the world is
constituted by the transcendental ego, yet the “I” who wills to doubt
everything belongs to the same world. As Husserl himself put it:
This is precisely the difficulty. Universal intersubjectivity, into which all ob-
jectivity, everything that exists at all, is resolved, can obviously be nothing
other than mankind; and the latter is undeniably a component part of the
world. How can a component part of the world, its human subjectivity, con-
stitute the whole world, namely, constitute it as its intentional formation,
one which has always already become what it is and continues to develop,
formed by the universal interconnection of intentionally accomplishing
subjectivity, while the latter, the subjects accomplishing in cooperation, are
themselves only a partial formation within the total accomplishment.
The subjective part of the world swallows up, so to speak, the whole world
and thus itself too. What an absurdity!
Husserl believed that “the paradox of human subjectivity: being a
subject of the world at the same time as being an object in the
world” was resolvable. He sought to do so by transforming it into a
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new question: “How I can have, beyond my individual self-consciousness,
a general, a transcendental-intersubjective consciousness?”
ever, this only leads to yet another aporia: Can the other egos be
constituted by the ego? With respect to this question, Husserl first
explained the constitution of the other Ego by way of a “self-transpo-
sition-into [Selbsthineinversetzen],” a Blickwechsel, toward what appears
as the object (or body): “Because of its sense-constitution [the
Other] occurs necessarily as an ‘intentional modification’ of that
Ego of mine which is the first to be Objectivated, or as an inten-
tional modification of my primordial ‘world’: the Other as phenom-
enologically a ‘modification’ of myself.”
After all, for Husserl, the other is no more than a “modification of
myself.” He finds the “alterity,” being other, in the self-differentiation
(the distinction between self and nonself) within the transcendental
ego. There is no doubt that the otherness of the other is absent in
this move. Everything occurs inside the transcendental ego: “Within
and by means of this ownness the transcendental Ego constitutes,
however, the ‘Objective’ world, as a universe of being that is other
than himself—and constitutes, at the first level, the other in the
mode: alter Ego.”
Husserl maintains that his solipsism is tentative,
heuristic, and methodological—one which should be overcome by
an association of monads, namely, intersubjectivity. But, as is already
evident, the other whom Husserl sought to constitute cannot be
deemed the veritable other in our transcritical context.
Earlier I argued that Kant introduced the other in order to attain
the universality of science. This otherness appears under the name
thing-in-itself, or it is the otherness grasped by way of the passivity of
sensibility. Husserl borrowed the term “transcendental” from Kant—
but only in order to return to Descartes, ignoring Kant. Husserl
could not acknowledge the structures of Kant’s architectonic: sensi-
bility, understanding, and reason; thing-in-itself, phenomenon, and
idea (transcendental illusion). If Kant’s transcendental critique ap-
peared to Husserl to be impure, it was precisely because it contained
the heterology, the “other’s standpoint.”
Kant maintained that one can think of—but not intuit—the thing-
in-itself, and that, if not for this discrimination, one would be
entrapped by antinomy. Thus Husserl’s paradox is just the same as
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what Kant meant by antinomy. For instance, there is nothing new in
Husserl’s argument that “grasping the whole world, we are within it;
or vice versa: being in the world, we grasp it; saying that we are
nowhere but in this world, we are on the meta-level of the world.”
Husserl encountered it at the end of his inquiries, but it is the prob-
lem he really should have confronted at the very outset. That is to say
that “being other” should not be a conclusion, because it is that which
motivates the transcendental critique from the first. It should be said
that Husserlian phenomenology is ultimately a solipsism that has no
way out. In his Speech and Phenomenon, Derrida rebuked Husserlian
phenomenology as phonocentrism and West centrism. But the same
critique cannot be applied to Kant. As I have said many times, his
transcendental position is initiated by a pronounced parallax, that is,
notably dogged by otherness. While Husserl saw his philosophical
ground in the West since ancient Greece, Kant was a cosmopolitan.
He neither traveled nor exiled himself like Descartes; he lectured
mainly on geography and anthropology; he refused an invitation from
Berlin University and remained in his hometown, Königsberg. In his
case, this refusal to move assumed a kind of transposition.
In passing, Descartes was not the kind of thinker that Husserl
wanted to make of himself. According to Husserl, Descartes has
sought to secure the validity of the transcendental ego’s constitution
of the world by way of God, instead of intersubjectivity, before mov-
ing on to his existential proof of God. There are three kinds of
proof in Descartes, two of which are the same as those put forth by
Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109) and the philosophia scholastica.
The one that is original to Descartes is expressed in the following
passage from Discourse on Method:
[E]ngaging in reflection thereupon that I doubted, and that, as a conse-
quence, my being was not totally perfect, for I clearly saw that it is a greater per-
fection to know than to doubt, I decided to search for the source from which
I had learned to think of something more perfect than I was; and I knew evi-
dently that this had to be from some nature that were, in effect, more perfect.
Descartes scrutinized this problem further in the third of his Medita-
tions on the First Philosophy (1641), in what might well be called a
proof after the effect. This proof for the existence of God by no
means belongs on the same level as the previous ones. Descartes had
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demonstrated the validity of the existence of res cogitans by the fact
that the doubting self itself remains after doubting everything. In his
proof of God’s existence, he again invoked “I doubt [reprehendo].”
The difference here, however, is that, instead of the transcendental
cogito, a doubting singularity now appears. If so, what does this
“proof ” really indicate? Punning on Spinoza’s interpretation of cog-
ito, Descartes is saying that I am as I doubt—thanks to the existence
of what makes me doubt.
What compels Descartes’ doubt is the temporal and spatial het-
erogeneity of discourses, and in being-other to the community one
belongs to. The heterogeneity, the difference, is not what one pro-
duces; and it is not that which is grasped from the vantage point of
identity. When one says the multitude of cultural systems are differ-
ent, for example, one tacitly takes for granted the existence of a
common, objective world. To Descartes, however, the existence of
the objective world had to be founded in the first place. Seen from this
perspective, one recognize that what Descartes called God was the
very difference that compelled him to doubt, namely, the otherness
that can never be internalized. In the final analysis, and from the
very beginning, what is hidden under doubting is the alterity—the
otherness of the other. Pascal accused Descartes of wanting to do
away with God, if possible. And if one really tries to do away with
God, one should just restate ‘God’ as ‘the other’—who is not tran-
scendent and absolute, but relative. The crux of Cartesian doubt ϭ
Cogito is that it was constantly dogged by the other. This crucial
problem of transcriticism was effectively lost after Descartes’ Medita-
tions, which corresponded, in turn, to his own loss of “being as
doubting” and its external mode of existence. And so it was that
Lévi-Strauss, too, lost his “anthropological Cogito” in his later years.
Once he stated that his stance would be progressive toward his own
culture and conservative toward the objective cultures; finally, he
ended up being conservative toward his own culture as well.
3.2 Transcendental and Transversal
In Der Verlust der natürlichen Selbstverständlichkeit., W. Blankenburg
called schizophrenia a “living phenomenological reduction.”
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Phenomenologists methodologically bracket the self-evidence of the
life world—that is, I exist and the objective world exists—based
upon the premise that they can unbracket it anytime they want. For
schizophrenics, on the other hand, the self-evidence is always al-
ready lost. Schizophrenics know that they exist and the world exists,
but they cannot sense it vividly; for them it is tremendously difficult
to live the world of self-evidence, namely, to unbracket phenomeno-
logical reduction. And if, in contrast, phenomenologists can bracket
and unbracket self-evidence at will, then by what means?
Hume radically questioned the Cartesian ego cogito, arguing that
there are multiple Is—multiple egos in one person’s being—and
that identical subjectivity as such exists only customarily—such as a
republic or commonwealth—as an imaginary union of the Is. In re-
gard to this kind of skepticism, he expressed his feelings as follows:
“We have, therefore, no choice left but betwixt a false reason and
none at all. For my part, I know not what ought to be done in the
present case. I can only observe what is commonly done; which is,
that this difficulty is seldom or never thought of; and even where
it has once been present to the mind; is quickly forgot, and leaves
but a small impression behind it.”
But then he is quick to correct
But what have I here said, that reflections very refined and metaphysical
have little or no influence upon us? This opinion I can scarce forbear re-
tracting, and condemning from my present feeling and experience. The in-
tense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human
reason has so wrought upon me, and heated my brain, that I am ready to re-
ject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as more
probable or likely than another. Where am I, or what? From what cause do
I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? Whose favour
shall I court, and whose anger must I dread? What beings surround me?
and on whom have I any influence, or who have any influence on me? I am
confounded with all these questions, and begin to fancy myself in the most
deplorable condition imaginable, environed with the deepest darkness, and
utterly deprived of the use of every member and faculty.
Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling
these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this
philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of
mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which oblit-
erate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of back-gammon, I converse,
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and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hour’s amuse-
ment, I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strained,
and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any further.
Even after this correction, however, Hume continues to spell out his
contradictory feelings about skepticism: It is just empty and frivo-
lous, it results in self-destruction, and so on. These depictions tell us
that, for Hume as for Descartes, to doubt was never merely some
sort of intellectual puzzle. It induced in him an almost morbid state
of mind. But then, after dining with friends and having other diver-
sions, he manages—somehow—to regain the world of self-evidence.
From the Kantian standpoint, what this transformative event points
to, if negatively, is that the transcendental Ego (or apperception) ex-
ists. The nature of Kantian apperception is that it is revealed as the
lack of itself. In the reading of Heidegger, it is nothing as a being but
exists as an ontological function.
To Hume, practicing transcendental reduction by bracketing the
world of self-evidence—and then coming back to the same world by
unbracketing—could never be voluntary. If it is true that the only
distinction between philosophers and psychotics is that the former
can bracket and unbracket freely and the latter cannot, then David
Hume definitely belongs to the latter group. If, however, Hume is
not a psychotic, it would be wrong to define philosophers—not
scholars of philosophy, of course—as free agents of bracketing. In a cer-
tain sense, they, too, are compelled to doubt the world of self-evidence. It
seems that philosophers intentionally deplete the self-evidence of
the world, but perhaps they do so because they have already lost
self-evidence from the beginning. I am not trying to say that phi-
losophers are close to or candidates for schizophrenia, but I am sug-
gesting that the transcendental reduction in philosophy cannot
merely be a methodology.
Socrates attributed the commencement of his skepticism to the
oracle of Apollo, while Descartes attributed his to a dream. But these
two cases nevertheless indicate the same thing: their doubts are not
motivated simply by their spontaneous wills. Doubting is not a game
we opt to play, but a produced, constructed experience. Doubting,
in tandem with the subject that exists as doubting, ensues from
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realistically existing difference or otherness. Yet this subject is defi-
nitely different from the transcendental subject. In contrast to
Descartes, Kant spoke little of it, save with respect to the criticizing
self. “Now, this is the path—the only one that remained—which
I have pursued, and I flatter myself to have found on it the elimina-
tion of all the errors that had thus far set reason, as used indepen-
dently of experience, at variance with itself.”
The “I” spoken here is
this I, namely, Immanuel Kant himself. This is neither a transcen-
dental ego, nor an empirical ego; for this I is the one that doubts the
empirical I, and, we shall see in a moment, it is the most crucial to
the transcritical context. Unlike Descartes, however, Kant did not
confuse the “doubting I” with the “thinking I.”
A critique that assesses what our cognitive powers can accomplish a priori
does not actually have a domain as regards objects. For it is not a doctrine:
its only task is to investigate whether and how our powers allow us (when
given their situation) to produce a doctrine. The realm of this critique ex-
tends to all the claims that these powers make, in order to place these pow-
ers within the boundaries of their rightful [use].
The transcendental critique is distinct from the faculties discovered
by it; it does not belong to any domain of the faculties. So where
does the critique come from? From the topos on which Kant was
standing—namely, the “interstice” between empiricism and rational-
ism. For Kant, empiricism and rationalism were not simply two
scholastic doctrines. Between them he encountered the paradox be-
tween being in the world and being the subject who constitutes the
world—the same paradox as the one with which Husserl was to
struggle. Taken together, empiricism and rationalism struck Kant as
a “pronounced parallax”—and, as I have already mentioned, this is
where Kant’s critique began. For him, the “critique” was inseparable
from his “being as criticizing,” that is, externalized existence. In con-
trast to Descartes, Kant did not speak of “I doubt [dubito].” Conse-
quently, the critical cogito after Descartes existed in certain
thinkers—including Kant—who kept quiet about it, or even publicly
negated it.
The first major example is Spinoza, the first of Descartes’ exten-
sive critics. Descartes himself, in his later work, considered thinking
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and extension to be two substances. But, as he put it in Discourse on
Method, if thinking is determined by grammar and customs, it is
also just a “machine” in the broad sense. The crux of the Cartesian
cogito existed only in the “doubts”: What if we are just made to
think, while we believe we actively think? What if we are enframed by
sham problems charged by language? For his part, Spinoza consid-
ered thinking and extension to be two aspects of “one and the same
substance.” By this move, however, it is not that Spinoza negated the
Cartesian cogito; rather, he sought to recover its critical function.
For Spinoza, God is equal to the world; and Descartes’ “free will”
and “God,” far from going beyond the world, are just representations
produced within the world. In a sense different from Heidegger,
Spinoza implied that humans are beings-in-the-world/nature and
cannot transcend it. This was a critique of Cartesianism, but not,
in the properly transcritical sense, a denial of “being as doubting
In fact, though denying free will, Spinoza thought it possible that
humans could be relatively liberated from the rule of passion by re-
vealing the cause of being ruled. In other terms, Spinoza affirmed
the freedom of will to cognize the world; yet again, this will should
not be spoken of positively, for it cannot be separated from the sum:
“being as doubting [dubitans].” Indeed, this is precisely his Ethica.
Spinoza was himself a singular cogito who refused to belong to any
community; his was an externalized existence. He was not a tempo-
rary refugee, like Descartes, but lived in the interstice of nowhere
land, having been excommunicated not only from the Christian
church but also from the Judaic synagogue. Making the interstice ϭ
difference itself his world, Spinoza literally lived ego sum dubitans. He
never spoke of the cogito, except when he wrote of Descartes.
Which, however, does not contradict the fact that he himself existed
as a cogito. The one and only substance for Spinoza, God ϭworld,
implies his transcendentalization of the space in between individual
systems; and by this, Spinoza undermines all the grounds of self-
evidence inherent in those systems.
But our task here is to return Descartes’ dubito to the empirical
world from whence it originated—not to recuperate or recontexual-
ize by Husserl’s “transcendental motive,” or by so many philosophers’
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will to understand everything transparently. But return is not the
same thing as a straightforward going back to the empirical world. In-
stead, we have to reconsider Descartes’ sum, especially in the way it is
coextensive with dubitans—that is, reconsider sum transcendentally.
From this perspective, cogito sum reveals itself as being similar to,
but also radically different from, the Being of beings that Heidegger
disclosed. Here is Heidegger’s formulation of the problem:
If the ‘cogito sum’ is to serve as the point of departure for the existential
analytic of Dasein, then it needs to be turned around, and furthermore its
content needs new ontologico-phenomenal confirmation. The ‘sum’ is then
asserted first, and indeed in the sense that “I am in a world.” As such an en-
tity, ‘I am’ in the possibility of Being towards various ways of comporting
myself—namely, cogitationes—as ways of Being alongside entities within-the-
world. Descartes, on the contrary, says that cogitanes are present-at-hand,
and that in these an ego is present-at-hand too as a worldless res cogitans.
Heidegger undeniably inverts the order of “cogito” and “sum.” In
other words, his starting point is not cogito but “being there [Dasein]”
as in being-in-the-world [in-der-Welt-sein]. In this manner, Heidegger
believed he had succeeded in overturning the thought initiated in
the Cartesian ego. But while this might be a critique of Husserl, it is
by no means a critique of either Descartes or Kant. Heidegger trans-
figured the Kantian distinction between the empirical and transcen-
dental levels to that between the ontic and the ontological, and
emphasized this shift as if it were his own invention. He also per-
sisted in stressing the importance of the transcendental ego as noth-
ing, namely, Being—as opposed to the empirical egos of beings. But
he never mentioned a word about the external beings who exist be-
tween communities. For this reason, his “being there [Dasein]” is at
the same time a “Being-with [Mitsein].” Which, for him, however,
meant (the German) Volk. And here there is no margin or gap for
the doubting cogito, the singular existence, ever to emerge.
Still, if one dares to persist in using ontological terms, one could
induce ontology from Cartesian doubt in the following manner.
Cogito qua dubito is the awareness of the difference between systems,
and sum is being in between them. What is really commonly con-
cealed in philosophy is not the difference between beings and
Being, as Heidegger claimed, but the transcendental difference or
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the interstice—the very thing Heidegger himself ended up conceal-
ing by his political ontology. And so it is also that Heidegger inter-
preted the Kantian transcendental critique exclusively along its
vertical vector, to its depth. For me, by contrast, transcendental cri-
tique should be considered and practiced—at the same time—along
its transversal vector. And I call this multidimensional oscillating en-
gagement “transcritique.”
Now, in criticizing Descartes, Heidegger returned to the pre-
Socratics. To be kept always in mind here, however, is the fact that
these thinkers were foreigners to Athens. Being in the Mediterranean
space of intercourse, they thought in the interstices, or intermundia—
to use Marx’s favorite term from Epicurus.
They did not depart
from any polis as the self-evident premise of their thinking. Par-
menides, for example, defied the Gods, and Heraclitus rebuked
community rituals. As Ortega y Gasset said, “It was in them [other
cities] and not in Athens that this new type of individual was
Although it was the center of politics and information,
Athens was initially less developed with respect to thinking than
were the margins of the Greek world. The people of the Athenian
community, who were enjoying their politico-economic hegemony,
suddenly experienced an inundation of the paradoxa of previously
unknown thinkers. “For a ‘people’ [Athenians] as profoundly reac-
tionary and intensely adherent to traditional beliefs, it was an ex-
tremely unsettling experience.”
In this climate, Socrates occupied quite an ambiguous positional-
ity. Executed by Athenians as a dangerous thinker whose faith was
informed by foreign elements, to his mind he was a genuine Athen-
ian, faithful to the polis. Unlike foreigners, he did not charge for his
teaching. Instead of purging foreign thought, by means of his dia-
logue, Socrates scrutinized and internalized it. In actuality, the dia-
logue itself is the very form that excludes the other ϭheterogeneous
as well as the thinker merchant. The fact that Socrates himself was ex-
cluded came to conceal his oppression of the other-heterogeneous.
In Plato, Socrates’ ‘execution’ assumes the same significance as that
of Jesus’ death for the Apostle Paul. Which is to say that Plato dra-
matized Socrates’ death, one of many contingent executions of the
time, as a sacrifice for the whole community of the polis. We can
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never know who Socrates really was, but at least we know what Plato
accomplished in Socrates’ name: the way of excluding external
thought by internalizing and detoxifying its radicality. In Plato’s
philosophy, just as in Hegel’s, all anterior thoughts are superseded
[aufheben] or elevated ϭstored ϭabolished. Plato’s dialectics (dialo-
gos), established by the exclusion of otherness, were another mono-
logue (monologos).
So when Heidegger praises Parmenides and Heraclitus while at-
tacking Plato, I cannot help but be skeptical about his intentions, as
when he writes: “Parmenides stood on the same ground as Heracli-
tus. Where indeed would we expect these two Greek thinkers, the
inaugurators of all philosophy, to stand if not in the being of the es-
What does the expression “in the being [Sein] of the essent
[Seiendes]” mean? Heidegger’s sophistic rhetoric and forced ety-
mology blind us to a much more crucial matter—the fact that these
philosophers stood in between communities. According to Heidegger,
Heraclitus saw Being as “the gathering together of the conflicting,”
and Parmenides saw identity as “the belonging-together of antago-
In the final analysis, all that this really should mean, how-
ever, is that they thought in the world as a heterogeneous space of
intermundial intercourse, rather than thinking in the space of a com-
munity gathered around a univocal set of rules.
From the beginning, it is impossible for those within a community
to be “inaugurators of all philosophy.” It was only by standing in be-
tween communities that Heraclitus was able to see Being as “the
gathering together of the conflicting,” and Parmenides to see iden-
tity as “the belonging-together of antagonisms.” It is clear that this
radical positionality was lost in the Platonic Socrates, who was firmly
rooted in the community of Athens. Problematizing the loss of
Being, Heidegger may have attacked Plato as the instigator of this
line of thinking, yet his own positionality was isomorphic to Plato’s—
excluding the heterogeneity of the thought that comes from the
topos of trade, and internalizing the denuded skeleton of that
thought. For Heidegger, in the end, the loss of Being was equal to
the loss of the German agrarian community. In our own context,
if the term “loss of Being” retains any significance at all, it should
be as the loss of the topos as difference, the loss of the space of
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intercourse in the intermundia. And precisely this loss is the proper
site of transcritique.
3.3 Singularity and Sociality
Kant drew a keen distinction between universality and generality,
similar to the manner in which Spinoza had distinguished idea from
concept. While generality can be abstracted from experience, uni-
versality cannot be attained if not for a certain leap. As I have been ar-
guing all along, the condition for a certain cognition to be universal
is not necessarily that it be based upon an a priori rule, but that it be
exposed to the judgment of others who follow a different set of
rules. Thus far, however, I have been speaking mainly of this condi-
tion spatially, which will now have to be dealt with temporally. What I
particularly want to stress is this point: The veritable others whom
we cannot anticipate are the ones who live in the future. Or, more
accurately, the future is truly the future only insofar as it is of the
other; the future we can anticipate is not the veritable future. (I deal
more fully with ‘the other as the future’ in chapter 4 vis-à-vis Kant
and Marx.) Thinking in this manner, it is clear that universality can
never be grounded by public consensus, because the latter can be
pertinent only to a single community, no matter how large. This
does not mean, however, that we can abandon the concept ‘public’.
Instead, our task is to change the very meaning of ‘public’—which is
precisely what Kant did.
In his response to the question, What is enlightenment? Kant an-
swered that it is “man’s emergence from his self-incurred immatu-
rity.” In the concrete, this means becoming a member not (only) of
a national community but (also) of a cosmopolitan society. What is
noteworthy about this formulation is that Kant shifted the significa-
tions of the public/private pair.
The public use of man’s reason must always be free, and it alone can bring
about enlightenment among men; the private use of reason may quite often
be very narrowly restricted, however, without undue hindrance to the
progress of enlightenment. But by the public use of one’s own reason
I mean that use which anyone may make of it as a man of learning addressing
the entire reading public. What I term the private use of reason is that which
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a person may make of it in a particular civil post or office with which he is
[. . .] But in so far as this or that individual who acts as part of the ma-
chine also considers himself as a member of a complete commonwealth or
even of cosmopolitan society [Weltbürgergesellshaft], and thence a man of
learning who may through his writings address a public in the truest sense
of the word, he may indeed argue without harming the affairs in which he
is employed for some of the time in a passive capacity.
In common usage, ‘public’, as opposed to ‘private’, is uttered at the
level of community or nation, but Kant considered the public in this
sense to be the private domain in reverse. Here is another indispens-
able aspect of the Kantian turn. This turn exists not simply in the fact
that Kant emphasized the precedence of the public domain, but in
the fact that he radically transformed the meaning of ‘public’.
Within a community, paradoxically, being public ϭcosmopolitan
appears to be rather individual. In a community, being individual is
deemed being private, because it is against the shared public con-
sensus. For Kant, however, being individual is equivalent to being
public—in the cosmopolitan sense.
Communities and nation-states exist in reality, and so do interna-
tional organizations centered on certain nation-states, but “cos-
mopolitan society” or “world-civil-society [Weltbürgergesellshaft]” in
the Kantian sense does not exist in reality. People cannot be mem-
bers of world-civil-society in the same sense that they belong to their
communities. If not for an individual’s will to be cosmopolitan or a
world citizen, world-civil-society would not exist. Employing reason
in regard to the world-civil-society necessitates consideration of the
future other, even at the expense of any present public consensus.
It is well known that Hegel negated such a stance as the spirit’s
abstract, subjective stage; for him, individuals become universal only
as members of a nation-state.
In order to avoid possible confusion and misunderstanding here,
I would like to redefine several pairs of keywords. First, I stress the
distinction between universality and generality. These two words are
almost always confused, and the same is true of their opposing
concepts: singularity and particularity. Gilles Deleuze drew a
lucid distinction between universality and generality in Difference and
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Repetition (1968) while touching upon Kierkegaardian repetition:
“Generality, as generality of the particular, thus stands opposed to
repetition as universality of the singular.”
His point is that while
the connection between particularity and generality requires a medi-
ation or a movement, that between singularity and universality is di-
rect and unmediated. Which is to say, sensu stricto, that while
generality and individuality are mediated by particularity, the latter
pair can never be mediated. Universality in the sense of Romanti-
cism is the equivalent of generality in our context. For instance,
while for Hegel individuality is connected to universality (in his case,
universality equals generality for this precise reason) by way of par-
ticularity (qua the nation-state), for Kant there is no such mediation.
What exists in between the terms is only incessant ethical determina-
tion (or, for Deleuze, repetition). This latter way of being individual is
precisely the way of being singular. Only the singular man can be
universal—this is Kierkegaardian terminology, but it is implicit al-
ready in Kant.
With respect to sensibility and understanding, Kant invoked what
he called the “scheme” as that which synthesizes these terms with
imagination. Consider a triangle drawn on a piece of paper. The tri-
angle could be arbitrary and of diverse shape, but we recognize any
three lines connected to each other at their endpoints as a triangle
in general. Because of the scheme, the individual and the general are
synthesized. Later, Ernst Cassirer reformulated this idea as “symbolic
form,” just as earlier the Romantics had reconsidered mediation as
the particular that synthesizes individuality and universality (equal-
ing generality, in their case). Hegel formulated the problem as
follows: “the particular, because it is only the determined universal,
is also an individual, and conversely the individual, because it is the
determinate universal, is just as much a particular.”
In other words,
the particular includes in itself both the universal and the individual,
and constitutes the middle term of the formal syllogism. What the
Romantics then introduced—namely, the celebration of language,
organicism, nation, and the like—can be seen logically as an orienta-
tion of “particularity.” And Georg Lukács criticized Kant for not over-
coming the segregation between individuality and universality,
between sensibility and understanding. Following Hegel, who, for
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him, went beyond Kant’s distinction, Lukács accounts for particular-
ity in the following way:
Because in theoretical recognition the movement in both directions oscil-
lates from one extreme to the other, and the middle, the particular, plays a
mediating role in either case, in the case of artistic reflection, the middle
becomes literally the center, the focal point, where the movements center
themselves. Therefore, herein exist both a movement from particularity to
universality (and back) as well as a movement from particularity toward sin-
gularity (and back), whereas in both cases the movement towards particu-
larity is the determinant one. Particularity now achieves a non-resolvable
fixation [unaufhebbare Fixierung]: and upon this, the world of forms of art-
works constructs itself. The mutual overturn [Umschlagen] and fusion [In-
einanderübergehen] of categories are changing: singularity as well as
universality appear always resolved [aufgehoben] in particularity.
But it was not Hegel who had first proposed this recognition of
particularity. It had been well nurtured by the Romantics. Already
Johann Gottfried Herder’s concept of language had entailed the
particularity that synthesizes sensibility and understanding, individu-
ality and universality. From the start, however, the syllogism linking
individuality-particularity-universality (or, in the concrete, individual-
race-genus) was not necessarily developed as a property specific to
language. For one thing, ‘nation’ has always been considered the
middle term (particularity) between individuality and humanity.
Furthermore, in between the natural and the spiritual—nature and
freedom in Kant’s terms—was posited organism (qua life) as partic-
ularity. In fact, for Herder, language was always inseparable from the
notion of nation qua organism. Wilhelm von Humboldt’s idea that
language is an organism was also derived from Herder. For the
Romantics, the idea of nation came to be privileged because of a
grounding logic according to which particularity synthesizes, even
originates, individuality and universality. Within this logic, it is only
particularity that assumes the concrete. This idea is most typically ex-
pressed in the famous words of Joseph Marie Compte de Maistre:
“there is no such thing as man in the world. In the course of my life
I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians etc.; I know, too, thanks to
Montesquieu, that one can be a Persian. But as for man, I declare that
I have never met him in my life; if he exists, he is unknown to me.”
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The individual becomes an individual person primarily within
one’s own national language (and nation). The universality of the
human being—a human in general—is abstract and empty when the
particularity is absent. Hence, the concept ‘cosmopolitan’ has always
been scorned, and still is. Yet, for his part, as we now know, Kant
never thought of the “world-civil-society” as substance. He never de-
nied that everyone always belongs to a certain community. He sim-
ply urged that individuals behave as cosmopolitans in thinking and
action. In actuality, being cosmopolitan would be impossible were it
not for the struggle of individuals (through enlightenment) within
and against their own communities.
In the history of philosophy, German Romanticism is customarily
categorized as ‘post-Kantian’—after all, it was a movement that came
after Kant. But individual thinkers such as Herder and Fichte were
in fact Kant’s contemporaries, and often criticized by him.
Kant’s “world-civil-society” was a concept coined as a critique of the
Romantics’ concept of ‘nation’. Although in Critique of Pure Reason,
Kant seems to criticize the metaphysics of the past, his true and
more crucial target was the metaphysical drive of reason, as it was
being resuscitated in his own time in the form of the nation. Kant
maintained that sensibility and understanding are synthesized by the
power of imagination [Einbildungskraft], which is to say that, from
the reverse perspective, the synthesis is just imaginary. Inverting
Lukács’s view that Kant could not get beyond the dichotomous
crack, we have seen that Kant deliberately rendered a crack in an
imaginary synthesis that had long existed. This, to repeat, is the very
crux of the Kantian transcendental critique.
Now I return to the distinctions between individuality-generality
and singularity-universality. In Kant’s terminology, the former pair is
empirical, while the latter is transcendental. The pair singularity-
universality reveals the fact that the synthesis by individuality-generality
is merely an imaginary construct. After Hegel, Kierkegaard and Max
Stirner introduced the concept of “singularity,” each in his own
manner. For Hegel, God is anthropomorphized in Christ because
a human is already God, which, in Feuerbach’s terms, is to say that
individuals are originally beings of “generic essence,” or “species be-
ings.” It was in order to negate such an uncritical and dangerous
synthesis that Kierkegaard invoked his own concept of ‘singularity’
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by seeking to introduce the circuit of singularity-universality in op-
position to the circuit of individuality-generality.
Singularity is often associated with existentialism, of course, but this
is a simpleminded view. In much the same climate as Kierkegaard,
Stirner posed the concept of the “single man” or “single ego [der
Einzige]” to criticize Feuerbach, who, despite his materialist overturn-
ing of Hegel, had remained within the Hegelian framework. For
Stirner, this I is singular, containing no generic essence or species
being. Refuting both the Hegelian Geist and the Feuerbachian Wesen
as ghosts, Stirner advocated a form of communism as a free “social”
association of single men or egos [Einzigen]. In The German Ideology,
Marx and Engels attempted of course to make Stirner publicly risible,
christening him “Saint Max.” But their earlier private correspondence
clearly shows Stirner’s importance as a protoform of communism.
Extending this line of argument, for the Marxian turn to occur, what
was required—far beyond any materialist overturning of Hegel—was
also the circuit of singularity-universality that severs the double circuit
of individual-genus and individuality-generality. (And I return to this
It was in the context of his critique of Feuerbach that Marx began
to use the adjective ‘social [sozial ]’ as a key concept. It goes without
saying that Marx’s ‘social’ is employed in contrast to the traditional
community (Gemeinschaft), but more importantly, it is distinct from
civil society (Gesellschaft), too. In Capital, Marx stressed time and
again that the economic exchange begins in the interstice between
communities. He reserved the term ‘social’ for the exchange be-
tween communities, which is quite distinct from the kinds of ex-
change based upon the reciprocities of division of labor and
gift-giving within a community. It was when the trade with outside
worlds was internalized within Gemeinschaft that Gesellschaft was
formed. Nevertheless, the latter also came to share the aspects of a
community that is shaped around a certain, same set of rules. The
‘social relations’ in the true Marxian sense are the relations with oth-
ers to which we are tied, though typically without being conscious of
the constraint.
Men do not therefore bring the products of their labor into relation with
each other as values because they see these objects merely as the material in-
teguments of homogeneous human labor. The reverse is true: by equating
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their different products to each other in exchange as values, they equate
their different kinds of labor as human labor. They do this without being
aware of it.
For classical economics, exchange value is internalized within in-
dividual commodities. But for Marx, as I have already begun to note,
particularly the Marx of Capital, commodities do not have exchange
value or even use value if they are not sold (exchanged); if not, they
are simply discarded. Marx called the jump of commodity into
money “the fatal leap [salto mortale] of the commodity.” When he
speaks, then, of the “sociality” of the commodity or of the labor that
produces it, he unequivocally refers to the fatal leap and the in-
evitable blindness of ours that accompanies it. The synthesis of the
two aspects of commodity—use value and exchange value—is akin
to Kierkegaard’s “synthesis of finite and infinite.” Losing the rela-
tionship with the other, the unsold commodity is like “the self des-
perately wanting to be himself.”
In this sense, Marx’s dialectics is
not a simple overturning of Hegel but is instead closer to the
Kierkegaardian qualitative dialectics. What is crucial to consider at
this point is the fact that, radically inscribed in Marx’s sociality, is
the moment of singularity—notwithstanding the fact that he re-
jected Stirner’s “single ego and his own [der Einzige und sein Eigen-
tum]” as quintessential bourgeois individualism.
In his Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Richard Rorty categorizes
thinkers from the past as two basic types: those who deal with indi-
viduality and those who deal with sociality. He puts Marx squarely in
the latter group.
However, as I have pointed out, things are not
nearly so simple, not after having learned that for Marx sociality is
inseparable from singularity. Rorty fails to distinguish community—
a communication network (or exchange) among those who share
the same set of rules—and society—communication between differ-
ent systems. Singularity, as exemplified by the Cartesian cogito, is
the way of existing in social space; hence it is far from being private
or introverted, as has been long claimed. With the term ‘social’,
Marx pointed to the way in which individuals belonging to different
systems/communities are connected by exchange without their
being aware of it. This is same critical space Kant identified with his
term “world-civil-society.” And it is the space of transcritique.
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Yet we cannot speak directly of singularity. Why not? Because it is
the nature of language to pull the circuit of singularity-universality
back to the circuit of individuality-generality. No matter how pre-
cisely we may try to describe this thing or this I, the description can
be no more than a specification of a general concept. We feel that
this thing or this I is singular, but, as soon as we speak in the deictic,
our discourse results in the limitation of general concept. Hegel crit-
icizes the attitude to persist in the singularity that language cannot
The ‘I’ is merely universal like ‘Now’, ‘Here’, or ‘This’ in general; I do in-
deed mean a single ‘I’, but I can no more say what I mean in the case of ‘I’
than I can in the case of ‘Now’ and ‘Here’. When I say ‘this Here’, ‘this
Now’, or a ‘single item’, I am saying all Thises, Heres, and Nows, all single
items. Similarly, when I say ‘I’, this singular ‘I’, I say in general all ‘Is’ (. . .).
By the same token, for Hegel, the universal is equal to the general. He
Consequently, what is called the unutterable is nothing else than the un-
true, the irrational, what is merely meant [but is not actually expressed].
If nothing more is said of something than that it is ‘an actual thing’, an
‘external object’, its description is only the most abstract of generalities and
in fact expresses its sameness with everything rather than its distinctiveness.
When I say: ‘a single thing’, I am really saying what it is from a wholly uni-
versal point of view, for everything is a single thing; and likewise ‘this thing’
is anything you like. If we describe it more exactly as ‘this bit of paper’, then
I have only uttered the universal all the time. But if I want to help out
language—which has the divine nature of directly reversing the meaning of
what is said, of making it into something else, and thus not letting what is
meant get into words at all—by pointing out this bit of paper, experience
teaches me what the truth of sense-certainty in fact is: I point it out as a
‘Here’, which is Here of other Heres, or is in its own self a ‘simple together-
ness of many Heres’; i.e., it is a universal.
What Hegel appears to be trying to say here is this: that the individu-
ality of the Here and Now, inasmuch as it is ‘expressed in language’,
already belongs to generality; that any individuality that is not gener-
ality is “merely meant”; and that even the ineffable is constituted
by language. In other words, singularity exists only as a divine nature
of language. The political implication of this statement is that
6715 CH03 UG 1/29/03 7:47 PM Page 107
cosmopolites as well as world-civil-society are only imagined con-
structs from the point of view of nation-states; and the individuality
that is contradictory to the public is “merely meant” as a phantasm.
And in this precise manner, Hegel himself ended up caging the cir-
cuit of singularity-universality—precisely the circuit Kant had once
opened up—within the circuit of individuality-generality.
In the introduction to the Japanese translation of Why Does Lan-
guage Matter to Philosophy? Ian Hacking argues that it was Hegel who
considered language to be public property—as opposed to the Kant
who, in Hacking’s view, was trapped in the philosophy of subjectiv-
ity. This Hegel is said to have initiated an important shift of emphasis
when he stated that language is a self-consciousness as being-for-the-
other, and that language is an externalized substance. When one
recognizes that language is external, public, and social, one at the
same time experiences a radical shift also concerning ego and iden-
Hacking also points out that it was J. G. Hamann, the friend
and critic of Kant (who also influenced Herder), who first conceived
this idea. There is, however, a distinct vagueness both in Hacking’s
use of the term “public” and in his distinction between community
and society. For this reason, Hacking cannot distinguish between
Herder’s and Hegel’s accounts of language as being public and
Wittgenstein’s critique of “private language.”
The Kantian tran-
scendental critique, as I have already said, was in actuality dealing
with the matter of language. So it is wrong to assume that a ‘new’
linguistic turn would clear away the problematic of ego, especially
when the ego equals the doubting existence.
In the problematic of language, there is a knotty obstacle that can-
not be subsumed into the circuit of individuality-generality: proper
names. Since ancient times, philosophers have been struggling over
individuality and generality. Realists maintain that substance exists
as a general concept, whereas individuality is only its contingent
appearance. For instance, a dog is a contingent appearance of the
concept canis. Taking the opposite tack, nominalists hold that only
the individual exists as substance, whereas generality is merely a con-
cept attained from the former. On this view, the concept canis is an
empirical abstraction from a multitude of dogs.
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Now, it is to be expected that realists think lightly of proper names;
but, surprisingly, nominalists, too, dislike proper names, even though
they do take into account that the individual qua substance is named
by a proper name. This is because proper names are socially given
and, after all, do not precisely indicate individuality. In Greece today,
for instance, many men are still named Socrates. For this reason,
nominalists came to neglect proper names on technical terms—for
their being contingent and secondary—even though they considered
them to be theoretically necessary. The last nominalist to presume
the individual to be substance and yet still sought to abolish proper
names was Bertrand Russell. He thought that proper names could be
reduced to a bundle of descriptions. Following this logic, for in-
stance, Mt. Fuji can be transposed into the description: “the highest
mountain in Japan.” Insisting that only deictic markers such as this
and that can be a subject or substance, Lord Russell dubbed them
“logically proper names.” For instance, with respect to the expres-
sion, “X exists, and X is Mt. Fuji,” Russell considers X a proper name.
But Russell’s theory of description conflates singularity and indi-
viduality. Suppose there is a dog. On the axis of individuality, ‘this
dog’ is one of the genus canis, and is defined by various characteris-
tics, say, white, long-eared, sleek. Seen from the axis of singularity,
however, this dog is no-other-than-this dog, and irreplaceable by any
other dog. The same is true with this I. I feel that this I is singular.
Which does not mean in the least that I am (or is) superior or extra-
ordinary. Rather, in this case, this this (i.e., this haecceity) is not to
be equated with, or reduced to, the this that indicates something, or
some thing. One cannot describe this I or this dog, namely, this sin-
gularity. No description can grasp thisness—except to say that it ac-
crues a bundle of descriptions or a bundle of sets. In contrast, this
I or this dog qua singularity means “no-other-than-this,” which is the
same as saying: “This is so in reality, though it could have been other-
wise.” For this reason, to tackle singularity I have to introduce the
problematic of modality.
Saul Kripke criticizes Russell by introducing the concept of modality
into his theory of possible worlds. A possible world is something like a
world that could exist if certain matters were different: “‘Possible
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worlds’ are total ‘ways the world might have been,’ or states or histo-
ries of the entire world.”
But in our context, we have to be cautious
about two things: first, that possible worlds are thought only from
the vantage point of the existing real world or the world that has
existed; and, second, that possible worlds are not worlds very far
removed from this world. According to Russell, the proper name
‘Mt. Fuji’ can be transposed to the description “the highest moun-
tain in Japan.” But let us imagine a world in which Mt. Fuji is not the
highest mountain in Japan. (And, in historical fact, Mt. Fuji was not
the highest mountain in the former Japanese Empire, which had an-
nexed Taiwan.) In this case, while we could say that Mt. Fuji is not
the highest mountain in Japan, we cannot say that ‘the highest
mountain in Japan’ is not ‘the highest mountain in Japan’. Thinking
of the real world through possible worlds in this manner, the differ-
ence between “proper names” (Kripke’s) and “definite descriptions”
(Russell’s) becomes clear. Kripke calls the proper name a “rigid
designator” because it is adequate to and in all possible worlds. He
negates, most of all, the idea that ‘the individual’, no matter what it
might designate, is no more than a set of characteristics. This is to
say that the proper name is unrelated to the description of an indi-
vidual’s characteristics, but indicates instead the individuality of an
individual in a direct way.
Seen from our point of view, Kripke criticizes Russell for reducing
the world with proper names to the circuit of generality-individuality.
To Kripke, even names of species, which are deemed general nouns,
are ultimately proper names. In this one can see his design to recon-
sider natural science as “natural history”—contrary to Russell, who
sought to reduce natural science to logic. In a different sense from
Russell, Hegel, too, had reduced the history of philosophy into a
logic without proper names. Proper names presuppose a singularity
that cannot dissolve into generality. History itself is no longer history
if not for proper names. But, at just this point, we have to approach
the problematic with another of our concerns—society-community.
Kripke stresses that rigid designation by proper name cannot be a
private matter; naming is done by the community and by a chain of
historical transmission. When Kripke uses the term ‘community’,
however, the transmission must be, in a strict sense, the one that
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occurs between communities, that is, a social transmission. In fact,
however, proper names can never be translated into other lan-
guages, traveling through different languages as they do; they are
the very indicators of social intercourse. The fact that linguists tend
to omit proper names from their disciplines can be explained by the
inherent untranslatability of proper names. This is not so much due
to the fact that the proper name is the source of the misconception
that language is connected directly to referents, but because the
proper name prevents us from grasping language as an enclosed dif-
ferential relational system (langue). The proper name makes possi-
ble the rigid designation of a referent because it intervenes in
manifold systems. And proper names exist at once within and with-
out langue.
Hegel was correct in saying that singularity cannot be expressed in
language. Which does not mean, however, that it does not exist. It
reveals itself to us only in a detoured manner. Language has a resis-
tance that cannot be subsumed into the circuit of individuality-
generality, which appears in the paradox of proper names. It is in
this instance that we find out in the negative way that singularity is
concerned with the social. It is now clear why claims about language
being public and social cannot lead immediately to the superseding
of either Descartes or Kant. The enduring question is what the term
‘public’ (or ‘social’) implies. Most important for us here is the dis-
tinction between the circuit of singularity-universality, which opens
itself to society, and the circuit of individuality-generality, which be-
longs to community. Altering the definition of words does not solve
real problems, but at least it can help avoid unnecessary confusion.
When Marx stressed that people become individuals in society, he
did so in order to seek beyond the binary opposition: individual-
social. But the implication of a statement changes according to what
‘society’ means. Should it mean community, then the individual (e.g.,
Marx himself ) would mean ‘he who attempts to be universal,
counter to community in his subjective fantasy.’ But should it mean
society—the space between communities—it would imply that people
become singular in universality.
The proper name is also often associated with private property. For
this reason, attacking the proper name appears to be antibourgeois.
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In the context of textual theory, it is argued that a text is appropri-
ated by an author with a proper name, or is authorized by the name
of the author. To take a seminal example, Roland Barthes insisted
on denying authorship and on giving the text back to its imagined
intertextual heterogeneity. But this move cannot be achieved by re-
ducing a text to the world where there are no proper names, or a
general structure. Rather, this entire argument should remind one
of the fact that, when a text cannot be reduced to the being of an
author due to the excess of signification, one has no option but to
call the singularity of the excess by a certain proper name.
Throughout this text, I have been using the name ‘Kant’—which
however is not the author; neither is it the philosopher who has
been appropriated by Germany or the West. The text of Kant is pub-
lic to the world-civil-society. And it is this possibility that transcritique
calls ‘Kant’.
3.4 Nature and Freedom
I have waited to deal with Kantian ethics until now, the last chapter
of the section. But I have been tacitly talking about it—especially
via the problematic of the other. The transcendental position that
began with the pronounced parallax between my stance and the
others’ stance persistently entails the problematic of alterity. In this
sense, the transcendental attitude is thoroughly ethical. Speaking of
ethics as a specific genre often blinds us to that aspect. For instance,
art is customarily defined as a mediator between nature and freedom,
namely, between scientific knowledge and morality. Yet scientific
recognition involves as its premise both the activity of understanding
(or imagination-power) that sets up hypotheses of the natural world
and the existence of the others that would make the universality of
the hypotheses possible. That is, it contains elements common to
both art and morality. If so, what Kant thought with the terms free-
dom, nature, and the mediator do not aptly correspond to the offi-
cially existing objective domains of morality, scientific recognition,
and art. His concepts were not confined to them. And such open-
ness must also be true in such domains as history and economy that
he did not write about as critique. In his book on Nietzsche, Deleuze
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said that what Nietzsche had sought to do was write the fourth cri-
tique that Kant had not completed.
For that matter, what Marx
sought to do in his critique of political economy would be another
critique in the series.
Now let me begin with Kant’s theory of art (or aesthetics). Pre-
Kantian classicists thought that the essence of the aesthetic experi-
ence existed in the objective form, while post-Kantian romanticists
maintained that it existed in subjective emotion. Though Kant is
often deemed a predecessor of romanticism, his thinking in fact
operated in critical oscillation between romanticism and classicism,
assuming the same transcritical stance that he took, in a different di-
mension, between empiricists and rationalists. He certainly did not
compromise between the dichotomies or contexts. Instead, he ques-
tioned the ground that makes art art, in the same way that he ques-
tioned the ground that makes cognition cognition.
A certain object is received as artwork only thanks to the opera-
tion of bracketing other interests projected onto the object. Be it a
natural object, a mechanical reproduction, or a daily utensil, the na-
ture of the object in and of itself does not matter directly. Seeing
an object by bracketing daily interests, or the change in attitude it-
self, makes the object an artwork. The common saying that Kant’s
aesthetics is subjective is correct to a certain extent, with the proviso
that the Kantian subjectivity is totally different from the romanticist
one. Kant’s subjectivity is the will to execute transcendental brack-
eting. It is for this reason that the Kantian critique is still sug-
gestive while classicist and romanticist aesthetics became obsolete
long ago.
When Marcel Duchamp submitted the urinal on a pedestal,
signed “R Mutt” and titled “Fountain,” to the exhibition of The Soci-
ety of Independent Artists in New York in 1917, he questioned what
makes art art as a conceptual and institutional analysis. What he
shed light on in this peculiar manner was very much one of the
Kantian problematics, namely, to see things by bracketing daily in-
And another crucial point Kant proposed is of course that
there is no universality in aesthetic judgment, though it is required;
that is, when one considers a certain thing to be universal, it is
always merely based upon historically engendered common sense.
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Although these two points were made vis-à-vis aesthetic judgment
and written as the third Critique, they had already existed prior to his
accounts on cognition and ethics. The above two points raised in the
context of aesthetic experience persist in all domains, beyond aes-
thetic concerns. I said “all domains,” but for that matter, one of
Kant’s most crucial propositions is that domains themselves come
into existence by way of transcendental reduction (bracketing). On
the one hand, Kant doubted the idea that an essence of art exists
objectively, while on the other he questioned the idea that it exists
only in subjectivity (i.e., emotion). Kantian subjectivity appears with
this precise doubt, and it takes art out of the constant canonization
of this or that school, and back to its arché, where certain experi-
ences or objects are made into art. Kant is consistent in questioning
the idea that the aesthetic domain, be it objective or subjective, ex-
ists in and of itself.
Modern science was established by bracketing moral and aesthetic
judgments. Only at this moment did the “object” appear. But this
was not limited to natural science. Machiavelli came to be known as
the father of modern political science precisely because he discov-
ered the domain of politics by bracketing morality. Importantly,
with the domain of morality the same can be said. The moral do-
main does not exist in and of itself. When we confront the world, we
have at least three kinds of judgment at the same time: cognitive
judgment of true or false, ethical judgment of good or bad, and aes-
thetic judgment of pleasure or displeasure.
In real life, they are in-
termixed and hard to distinguish. Scientists make observations by
bracketing ethical and aesthetic judgments: Only by this act can the
objects of cognition come into existence. In aesthetic judgment, the
aspects of true and false and good and bad are bracketed, only at
the precise moment that artistic objects come into existence. These
operations are emphatically not done naturally. Rather one is always
ordered to bracket by the external situation.
And being accustomed
to it, one forgets that one brackets, and think that the objects—
scientific or artistic or moral—exist by themselves.
Morality appears to exist objectively. At least that is the way we are
taught. But the morality considered in this manner is unequivocally
one that belongs to community’s codes. Therein moral norms are
6715 CH03 UG 1/29/03 7:47 PM Page 114
transcendent to individuals. Then comes another view of morals,
conceptualized from the vantage point of an individual’s happiness
and profits. One might say that the former is rationalist, while the
latter is empiricist. But both are heteronomous and not autonomous.
Kant again intervenes to oscillate between them, and transcendentally
questions what makes morals moral. In other words, he extracts a
moral domain by bracketing a community’s codes as well as personal
emotion and interests.
Kant maintains that the moral domain cannot be grounded by
feelings of pleasure/displeasure or by happiness, indicating that,
from the beginning, Kant’s moral world is attained by bracketing
them. Just for the sake of confirmation, I would like to stress that
this account is not to deny the fact that morality accompanies feel-
ings of pleasure/displeasure; and it is not to say that morality itself
opposes feelings. Bracketing is not the same as negation. Rather
Kant himself rebuked those stern moralists who sacrificed other
dimensions for the sake of moral correctness. For Kant, morality is
finally a matter of freedom rather than goodness or badness. If not for
freedom, there is no good and bad. Freedom is synonymous to being
causa sui, self-motivated, subjective, and autonomous. But, is there
such a freedom? In Critique of Pure Reason, Kant proposes the follow-
ing antinomy as the “third conflict of the transcendental ideas”:
Thesis—The causality according to laws of nature is not the only one from
which all the appearances of the world can be derived. It is also necessary to
assume another causality through freedom in order to explain them.
Antithesis—There is no freedom, but everything in the world happens
solely in accordance with laws of nature.
This antithesis should be read not from the standpoint of the causal-
ity of modern science, but of Spinozian determinism. According to
Spinoza, everything in the world is determined necessarily, but the
causality is so complicated that there is no other choice for us but to
assume freedom and contingency. Kant approves this antithesis,
namely, the fact that what we consider as a determination of free will
is always already that by the complex of causalities.
I am never free at the point of time in which I act. Indeed, even if I assume
that my whole existence is independent from any alien cause (such as
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God), so that the determining grounds of my causality and even of my
whole existence are not outside me, this would not in the least transform
that natural necessity into freedom. For, at every point of time I still stand
under the necessity of being determined to action by that which is not within
my control, and the series of events infinite a parte priori which I can only
continue in accordance with a predetermined order would never begin of
itself: it would be a continuous natural chain, and therefore my causality
would never be freedom.
On the other hand, however, he acknowledges elsewhere the thesis
that speaks to the freedom of human acts, and says:
In order to clarify the regulative principle of reason through an example of
its empirical use—not in order to confirm it (for such proofs are unknow-
able for transcendental propositions)—one may take a voluntary action,
e.g. a malicious lie, through which a person has brought about a certain
confusion in society; and one may first investigate its moving causes,
through which it arose, judging on that basis how the lie and its conse-
quences could be imputed to the person. With this first intent one goes
into the sources of the person’s empirical character, seeking them in a bad
upbringing, bad company, and also finding them in the wickedness of a
natural temper insensitive to shame, partly in carelessness and thoughtless-
ness; in so doing one does not leave out of account the occasioning causes.
In all this one proceeds as with any investigation in the series of determin-
ing causes for a given natural effect. Now even if one believes the action to
be determined by these causes, one nonetheless blames the agent, and not
on account of his unhappy natural temper, not on account of the circum-
stances influencing him, not even on account of the life he has led previ-
ously; for one presupposes that it can be entirely set aside how that life was
constituted, and that the series of conditions that transpired might not have
been, but rather that this deed could be regarded as entirely conditioned
in regard to the previous state, as though with that act the agent has started
a series of consequences entirely from himself. This blame is grounded on
the law of reason, which regards reason as a cause that, regardless of all the
empirical conditions just named, could have and ought to have determined
the conduct of the person to be other than it is.
What is noteworthy here is that Kant locates the freedom of action
only ex post facto, not ex ante facto. There is no freedom as such ex
ante facto. Kant’s universal imperative of duty is: “act as if the maxim
of your action were to become by your will a universal law of nature.”
This drew the criticism that Kant’s ethics was subjectivist, and that it
attached importance to the purity of motive of the moral act but
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ignored its result.
One must not forget, however, that he sustained,
at the same time, the antithesis: “I am never free at the point of time
in which I act.” To repeat, he certainly said: “act as if the maxim of
your action were to become by your will a universal law of nature.” But the
fact of the matter is that the intention and the result of action are
different things, as Wittgenstein said: “And to think one is obeying
the rule is not to obey a rule.”
We do things differently from our
intentions, and it is extremely rare that what we intend is actually re-
alized. The most crucial point here is that of responsibility, the re-
sponsibility for the result. Only when we are considered free agents,
though we are not at all in reality, do we become responsible. Kant’s
phrase, “this deed could be regarded as entirely conditioned in re-
gard to the previous state, as though with that act the agent has
started a series of consequences entirely from himself,” means just
that. When we have done something wrong without knowing that it
would be harmful (or sinful), are we still responsible even if we did
not know it? Those who have the potency to know that it was harm-
ful are said to be responsible.
While in the first conflict of transcendental ideas, the thesis—the
world has a beginning in time and in space it is also enclosed in
boundaries—and antithesis—the world has no beginning and no bounds in
space, but is infinite with regard to both time and space
—are both
proven to be false by antinomy, in the third conflict of transcenden-
tal ideas, both thesis and antithesis can be established. Why? Because
the thesis signifies the stance of seeing human action by bracketing
natural causality, while the antithesis signifies the stance of seeing
the causality of human action by bracketing people’s assumption of
freedom. As long as they are bracketing different domains, they can
stand together. Let me call the former a practical stance, and the lat-
ter a theoretical stance. And, as evident now, the theoretical and
practical domains do not exist in and of themselves; they exist only
when one subjectively takes theoretical and practical stances.
Critique of Pure Reason is aimed at refuting the metaphysical argu-
mentations that seek to prove self, subject, and freedom as sub-
stance. On the other hand, Critique of Practical Reason queries the
ways by which self, subject, and freedom can exist in the phase
where the necessity of nature [Naturnotwendigkeit] is bracketed. In
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reality, we can have various choices, and without knowing to what
extent the choices are compelled by the necessity of nature. As a re-
sult, we come to acknowledge, to a certain degree, decisions deter-
mined by causality and, to a certain degree, those determined by
free will. Suppose there is a criminal. There are many causes for his
crime, personal as well as social. If one named every possible cause,
it would turn out that he had no free subject, and thus no responsi-
bility. Upset by such a defense and vindication, people would claim
that he must have also had freedom of choice. Therefore, common
sense would be to accept that humans are determined by various
causalities, while acknowledging their free will. Kant, however, re-
jected this kind of middling solution. First we should think that
there is no such thing as free will. When we think we do something
by our free will, we do so only because of our unawareness of its
being determined by external causes. After realizing this, it is finally
possible to ask how freedom is possible. From the beginning, nei-
ther freedom nor responsibility emerges out of the theoretical stance
that queries the cause. According to Kant, the criminal’s responsibil-
ity arises when the causality is bracketed, that is, when he is a free
agent. In reality, he does not have freedom sensu stricto. But, he has
to be deemed free in order for him to be responsible. Such is the
practical standpoint.
Kant thought that freedom lay in the duty to obey (or command).
This is a tricky point where logic tends to falter, because obeying
commands seems to be the opposite of freedom. (As I return to
later, many accusations concentrate on this point.) But it is clear
that Kant did not identify duty with that which is imposed by the
community’s code. If the command of duty is of community, to obey
it is a heteronomous act, and not free. In order to be free, then,
what kind of command does one have to obey? That is no other
than the command: “be free!” There is no contradiction here. Nei-
ther is there any enigma in Kant’s word: “he can do something be-
cause he is aware that he ought to do it,”
which simply means that
freedom can spring only from the imperative of being free.
Where does this imperative come from? It comes neither from
community nor from God; it originates from Kant’s transcendental
attitude itself—that which entails the imperative: “bracket it!”
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Returning to “R Mutt,” Duchamp is not commanding viewers to see
the urinal as an artwork by bracketing their daily concerns; instead,
the context—being installed in an exhibition—is itself commanding
viewers to see it as artwork, though most viewers are not aware of it.
Likewise, the fact that the transcendental stance itself contains the
imperative is forgotten, and finally the fact that the transcendental
stance is spurred by an imperative is forgotten. Where does the tran-
scendental stance spring from? It is spurred on by the existence of
the others. In this sense, it can be said that the transcendental stand-
point is ethical.
This imperative “be free!” ultimately contains the imperative to
treat others as free agents. Kant’s moral law is little more than the
command: “So act that you use humanity, whether in your own per-
son or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end,
never merely as a means.”
And it is only thanks to the imperative
that the personalities of the others come into existence. Within the
theoretical stance, neither my personality nor that of any other can
exist. Only in the practical domain do they appear. Thus Kant’s laws
of morality are synonymous to being practical.
Now to interpret the causality of the necessity of nature from a
wider perspective. Remember that the causes of the criminal case
come not only from personal feelings but also from social relations.
If so, then, how can we assess those social relations? Marx wrote
about this with respect to his methodological stance in Capital:
To prevent possible misunderstanding, let me say this. I do not by any
means depict the capitalist and the landowner in rosy colors. But individu-
als are dealt with here only in so far as they are the personifications of eco-
nomic categories, the bearers [Träger] of particular class-relations and
interests. My standpoint, from which the development of the economic
formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than
any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he
remains, socially speaking, however much he may subjectively raise himself
above them.
This stance insists on seeing the social structure as a necessity of
nature, thereby forestalling any attribution of responsibility. But I
contend that Marx attained this gaze from the natural historical
stance, namely, by bracketing responsibility.
When he saw social
6715 CH03 UG 1/29/03 7:47 PM Page 119
relations as a natural historical process, it could be said, he took a
theoretical position—with which to execute the bracketing of sub-
jectivity and responsibility—but not to negate them. Marx could
have spoken moralistically like Proudhon, who insisted, “La Pro-
priété, c’est le Vol,” but he did not. The Marx in Capital persisted in
the bracketing. And this was driven by his ethical will. If so, there is
no need of searching for Marxian ethics outside Capital. For his part,
Kant’s ethics cannot be sought only in his accounts of morality.
Being theoretical at the same time as being practical—the transcen-
dental stance is itself ethical.
I now take up the three main currents of thinking in postwar
France: existentialism, structuralism, and poststructuralism. The ex-
istentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre, stressed freedom, while admitting the
structural determinedness of humans. His vantage point might be
defined as practical. On the other hand, when the structuralists
questioned the concept of subject as a substance and saw it merely as
an effect of structure, they took a theoretical stance. In this context
it is quite understandable that they returned to Spinoza. As I men-
tioned earlier, the thesis of Kant’s third antinomy results in Spinoza’s
position—that everything is determined by causes, but people think
they act freely because the causes are so complex. Free will as well as
anthropomorphized God—things that supposedly go beyond the
necessity of nature—are imaginary constructs that are themselves
determined naturally and socially. In fact, what one calls causes are
retrospective constructs of the effects. Louis Althusser coined the
concepts of “structural causality” and “overdetermination” in refer-
ence to Spinoza—and they, too, are a kind of determinism in a
broad sense.
One should not be overly excited by these theoretical achieve-
ments. They are nothing but shifts of stance that occur because of
the bracketing operation that is inherent in the theoretical stance.
There is nothing new about the series of problematics that was pre-
sented in the dichotomy of existentialism vs. structuralism or subject
vs. structure; it is little more than a variation of what Kant presented
as the third antinomy. It is meaningless to oppose subject against
the structuralist stance, or to seek the subject therein. Because, from
the beginning, it is only by bracketing the subject that structural
6715 CH03 UG 1/29/03 7:47 PM Page 120
determinism is attained. Conversely, only when structural determina-
tion is bracketed can the dimension of subject and responsibility
return. Later, when poststructuralism sought to reintroduce morality—
it was simply as a matter of course.
So in this sense, none of them
was necessarily new. Being swayed by a spectacular succession of
new trends, one tends to overlook the aspect that they were alter-
ations of theoretical and practical stances. Meanwhile, the lesson of
the Kantian transcendental critique is to keep both stances at the
same time. One has to know how to bracket and unbracket at the
same time.
In Critique of Practical Reason, Kant’s harshest target was eude-
monism (or utilitarianism). He rejected it because happiness is gov-
erned by physical causes, namely, because it is heteronomous.
Freedom, on the other hand, is metaphysical. Kant’s reconstruction
of metaphysics is nothing if not involving this. But eudemonism was
not the only thing Kant considered heteronomous. So was the
morality that belongs to the community.
In Encyclopedia Logic, Hegel first praised Kant for having criticized
eudemonism, but then quickly criticized him for remaining in indi-
vidualism. What was dominant at that time was the conventional
moralism imposed by family, community, and church; and eude-
monism (or individualism) of English origin was rather accused of
endangering this kind of moralism. Along this line, Hegel acknowl-
edged Kant’s critique of eudemonism, but attacked him by advocat-
ing the primacy of objective ethics [Sittlichkeit]. The intention was to
recover the authority of family, community, and nation-state. Against
such a position, Kant would rather support eudemonism. From eude-
monism, however, one can never induce universal moral law.
The principle of happiness can indeed furnish maxims, but never such as
would be fit for laws of the will, even if universal happiness were made the
object. For, because cognition of this rests on sheer data of experience,
each judgment about it depending very much upon the opinion of each
which is itself very changeable, it can indeed give general rules but never
universal rules.
We must pay attention to this distinction between “general” and
“universal.” Kant did not extract moral law from existing various
morals. He certainly formalized morality, but not in order to extract
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the general of morals. For him, the moral domain exists only in the
imperative (or duty): “be free!” What the moral law is telling us is
nothing other than to be free and to treat others as free agents. As
I have mentioned before, that Kant saw freedom in obeying duty
caused many misunderstandings. It is easily mistaken for obeying
the duties imposed by community and nation-state. Nonetheless
Kant’s point was to grasp morality not in ‘good and evil’ but in ‘free-
dom.’ In the (theoretical) dimension where we are mainly tossed
about by natural/social causalities, there is no good and evil. In ac-
tuality, there is nothing like freedom (causa sui) sensu stricto; all
acts are determined by causes. Yet if freedom as such (as a regulative
idea of reason) intervenes at all, it is only at the moment when we
consider ourselves as the cause of all of our acts. The imperative
‘be free’ is equal to the imperative of bracketing natural causes.
Nietzsche, who accused Kant of dividing the world between phe-
nomenon (read nature) and thing-in-itself (read freedom), stated as
My new path to a “Yes”—Philosophy, as I have hitherto understood and lived
it, is a voluntary quest for even the most detested and notorious sides of
existence. From the long experience I gained from such a wandering
through ice and wilderness, I learned to view differently all that had hith-
erto philosophized: the hidden history of philosophy, the psychology of its
great names, came to light for me. “How much truth can a spirit endure,
how much truth does a spirit dare?”—this became for me the real standard
of value. Error is cowardice—every achievement of knowledge is a conse-
quence of courage, of severity toward oneself, of cleanliness toward one-
self—Such an experimental philosophy as I live anticipates experimentally
even the possibilities of the most fundamental nihilism; but this does not
mean that it must halt at a negation, a No, a will to negation. It wants rather
to cross over to the opposite of this—to a Dionysian affirmation of the
world as it is, without subtraction, exception, or selection—it wants the eter-
nal circulation:—the same things, the same logic and illogic of entangle-
ments. The highest state a philosopher can attain: to stand in a Dionysian
relationship to existence—my formula for this is amor fati.
In On the Genealogy of Morals and Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche re-
buked morals as the resentment of the weak. We must be careful to
interpret the word weak, however. In the most straightforward inter-
pretation, Nietzsche himself, who failed as a scholar and suffered
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from syphilis, was nothing but “the weak.” But the case is not so sim-
ple. To him, “the strong” or the überman is the one who accepts
such a miserable life as one’s own creation in the place of attribut-
ing it to someone else or to given conditions. That is his formula of
amor fati. The überman is not an exceptional human. And amor fati
is the stance to accept one’s destiny determined by external causes
(nature) as if it were derivative of one’s free will (consistent with the
principle of causa sui), in Kantian terms. This is a practical stance
par excellence. Nietzsche scrutinized the way of being a free subject
in the practical sense. His thoughts have nothing to do with affirma-
tion of the status quo. And his “will to power” is attained by bracket-
ing the determination of causality; nevertheless what he forgot was
the need to see the world by unbracketing it now and then. That is,
while attacking the resentment of the weak, Nietzsche did not dare
to see the real relations that necessarily produce it. He ignored the
view that individuals are finally the products of social relations, no
matter how much they think they are beyond them.
Theodor Adorno read Kant’s moral imperative as a social norm
and criticized this point in reference to Freud. According to
Adorno, Kant excluded the genetic moment from moral philoso-
phy, and in recompense, attributed to it a noumenal characteristic.
No Kant interpretation that would object to his formalism and undertake to
have the substance demonstrate the empirical moral relativity which Kant
eliminated with the help of that formalism—no such interpretation would
reach for enough. The law, even in its most abstract form, has come to be;
its painful abstractness is sedimented substance, dominion reduced to its
normal form of identity. Psychology has now concretely caught up with
something which in Kant’s day was not known as yet, and to which he there-
fore did not need to pay specific attention; with the empirical genesis of
what, unanalyzed, was glorified by him as timelessly intelligible. The
Freudian school in its heroic period, agreeing on this point with the other
Kant, the Kant of the Enlightenment, used to call for ruthless criticism of
the super-ego as something truly heterogeneous and alien to the ego. The
super-ego was recognized, then, as blindly, unconsciously internalized
social coercion.
This interpretation is a typical misreading. For Freud himself, after
Beyond the Pleasure Principle, amended his idea of the superego.
he did not deny, in principle, his previous stance that superego was
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rooted in the social norm, at the same time, he came to conceive
that superego was formed by an introversion of the death drive or
aggression drive (the extroverted death drive). Here Freud assumed
an autonomy: namely, the superego that derives from the destructive
drive controls the destructive drive itself. And, as Freud himself had
to admit, the death drive is a metaphysical concept. But isn’t Adorno
himself, in the following passage, metaphysical?
Perennial suffering has as much right to expression as a tortured man has to
scream; hence it may have been wrong to say that after Auschwitz you could
no longer write poems. But it is not wrong to raise the less cultural question
whether after Auschwitz you can go on living—especially whether one who
escaped by accident, one who by rights should have been killed, may go on
living. His mere survival calls for the coldness, the basic principle of bour-
geois subjectivity, without which there could have been no Auschwitz; this is
the drastic guilt of him who was spared. By way of atonement he will be
plagued by dreams such as that he is no longer living at all, that he was sent
to the ovens in 1944 and his whole existence since has been imaginary, an
emanation of the insane wish of a man killed twenty years earlier.
Karl Jaspers would call this “metaphysical guilt” in contrast to “moral
That is to say that while moral responsibility is generated in
committing certain vices (even indirectly), metaphysical responsibil-
ity could arrive without committing anything. But if Adorno and
Jasper had thought they went beyond Kant’s theory of morality by
these accounts, they would have been wrong. To Kant, morality is
consistently metaphysical, and in contrast, the morality (good/evil)
of a community is physical (or natural). Therefore, Adorno’s state-
ment above actually crossed the point where Kant conceptualized
his morality.
I said earlier that, in Kant, the moral domain comes into existence
only after the imperative “be free!” But, who is doing the command-
ing? Not the community. Not the nation-state. Not the religion. Nei-
ther is it from the inside. It must come from outside. Jacques
Derrida reflected upon responsibility from the vantage point of re-
Responsibility appears only as a response to the other.
The necessity to respond to others pushes us into the dimension of
freedom. In the case of Adorno, it is a response to those who died in
Auschwitz; those whose thoughts are nevertheless never knowable.
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In reality he had no guilt; he himself was a victim. Adorno felt
responsibility toward the dead, however, because he felt he survived
on the shoulders of the dead. This responsibility is the kind that
comes into existence only when, in the terms of Kant, one follows
the imperative: “So act that you use humanity, whether in your own
person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an
end, never merely as a means.”
Adorno’s feeling of responsibility toward the dead appears to have
come from inside; but after all, it comes from outside, that is, the
other. When one says the other, it does not have to mean existing
others. The others—those who do not share a common set of
rules—are not only those in outside communities, but also include
those who do not exist in the here and now—future humans as well
as the dead. Rather, with respect to otherness, they should be the
model. Generally speaking, ethics takes only living beings in consid-
eration, while Kantian ethics, that sees the others as the thing-in-
itself, takes hold of the others who have been and who will be.
Anglo-American philosophy negated the Kantian position and
sought to construct ethics by returning to utilitarian concerns. On
the other hand, Jürgen Habermas conceived that Kantian ethics
could be surpassed by public consensus or inter-subjectivity. Both of
them limit their definition of the others to those who are present
here and now, or worse still, to those who share the same set of
rules. The dead—those who lived in the past—as well as the yet-to-
be-born—those who will live in the future—are out of their range of
concern. Today, those ethicists who have negated the Kantian posi-
tion and proposed utilitarian moral law are increasingly facing an
aporia vis-à-vis environmental problems: take, for instance, the
tremendous amount of industrial waste produced for the sake of our
comfortable lives that will be charged to future generations. A pub-
lic consensus among adults living today might be established—albeit
restricted to advanced Western and non-Western nations—while di-
alogue and consensus with future people are impossible. Also impossi-
ble is communication with past people. They won’t say anything. Why,
then, does one feel responsible to them? (In fact there are many
people who do not feel any responsibility—especially those who are
‘moralists’ when it comes to state and community.)
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This sense of responsibility is different from the residue of duty’s
call to community that has endured since the primitive stage of
human history. It appears only in correspondence to the imperatives
“be free!” and “treat others as free agents!” Notwithstanding that
Kant called this the inner moral law, it does not exist internally. It ex-
ists vis-à-vis the others who cannot be internalized. One must note
that Kantian others are always posited in asymmetric relationships,
and they are distinct from Hegel’s and Sartre’s “another self-
consciousness,” namely, those who share the same set of rules and
desires. The others are rather uninterested in me. When speaking of
‘the others’, people call to mind only those others living today. But
the otherness of the other appears most strikingly in the dead.
Thus, in Kierkegaard:
the most frightful of all is that one dead gives no hint at all. Beware, there-
fore, of the dead! Beware of his cunning; beware of his definiteness, beware
of his strength; beware of his pride! But if you love him, then remember
him lovingly, and learn from him, precisely as one who is dead, learn the
kindness in thought, the definiteness in expression, the strength in un-
changeableness, the pride in life which you would not be able to learn as
well from any human being, even the most gifted.
One who is dead does not change; there is not the slightest possibility of
excuse by putting the blame on him; he is faithful. Yes, it is true. But he is
nothing actual, and therefore he does nothing, nothing at all, to hold on to
you, except that he is unchanged. If, then, a change takes place between
one living and one dead, it is very clear that it must be the one living who
has changed.
One cannot project one’s empathy onto the dead. Neither can one
represent their will. They never talk; they never show their interest.
Those who speak for the sake of the dead are just speaking for them-
selves. Those who mourn for the dead do it in order to forget them.
By mourning, the dead won’t change; it is we who change. By not
changing at all, they reveal our changes. Thus they are cunning.
They are the others in this very sense. Seeing the others as the thing-
in-itself, as Kant did, is equal to seeing the others as someone from
whom one can never evoke mutual consent, onto whom one can
never project a representation, and of whom one can never speak
as a representative. They are, however, different from Levinas’s
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“absolute Other.” They are the relative others who are around one
everyday. What is absolute is not the others themselves but our rela-
tionship with the relative others.
I have pointed out that the inclination toward universality in
Kant’s epistemology and aesthetics premises the future other. In the
same way, in order for moral law to be universal, not only does it
have to be formal, but it also has to presume the future other. And
in the final analysis, the future other implies the past other—the
dead—because for the future other, one is dead. One must not
forget one’s destined position in history.
In this precise sense, the Kantian critique essentially involves the
problematic of history. At the end of his career, Kant began to tackle
the problems of history head-on. Yet this was not a change of atti-
tude, because his stance, both theoretical and practical, persisted. The-
oretically speaking, history has no end; it has only a complex of
causality. (Those who pursue the causality of history must persist in
it without the assumption of any finality.) But, from the beginning,
the meaning and end of history do not exist in the same dimension
as theoretical scrutiny; they are practical problems par excellence.
Kant approached history with the same stance as the one he took
in Critique of Judgment: Although there is no end in natural history, a
certain finality may be presumed. Although there is no end in
human history, it can be seen as if it had a finality. According to
him, “We should be content with providence and with the course of
human affairs as a whole, which does not begin with good and then
proceed to evil, but develops gradually from the worse to the better;
and each individual is for his own part called upon by nature itself to
contribute towards this progress to the best of his ability.”
It is easy
to refute this teleological position theoretically. Being theoretical is
equal to seeing things by bracketing ends.
In the first place, Kant
himself considered such an idea of history as transcendental illu-
sion. What is more important, however, is that Kant located a “puz-
zle” in the relationship between generations—that which appears to
assume an end in human history.
Yet nature does not seem to have been concerned with seeing that man
should live agreeably, but with seeing that he should work his way onwards
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to make himself by his own conduct worthy of life and well-being. What re-
mains disconcerting about all this is firstly, that the earlier generations
seem to perform their laborious tasks only for the sake of the later ones, so
as to prepare for them a further stage from which they can raise still higher
the structure intended by nature; and secondly, that only the later genera-
tions will in fact have the good fortune to inhabit the building on which a
whole series of their forefathers (admittedly, without any conscious inten-
tion) had worked without themselves being able to share in the happiness
they were preparing. But no matter how puzzling this may be, it will appear
as necessary as it is puzzling if we simply assume that one animal species was
intended to have reason, and that, as a class of rational beings who are mor-
tal as individuals but immortal as a species, it was still meant to develop its
capacities completely.
That one cannot “share in the happiness [one was] preparing” im-
plies that even though an individual intends to struggle and die for
future generations, future generations will neither acknowledge nor
thank that individual for such sacrifice. One does the same vis-à-vis
one’s ancestors. Of course, within communities and nation-states,
certain people are thanked and praised emblematically after their
deaths. But community worship is another story entirely. As Walter
Benjamin claimed, history belongs to the victors. But most of one’s
efforts will be ignored by the future others. What Kant stressed was
precisely that we have to endure this “disconcerting absurdity.” For
whatever we do for the future others, our acts are motivated by our
own problems. For freedom has nothing to do with happiness. Free-
dom is not the same as the negation of happiness, yet the imperative
“be free!” is often cruel.
Kant’s theory of morals is historical in essence because, as I have
tried to show, it implicates the requirement that the moral law be re-
alized historically: “So act that you use humanity, whether in your
own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as
an end, never merely as a means.” At the same time, however, he never
ignored the natural historical process. As Hermann Cohen once re-
minded us, it is important that Kant stressed here “never merely
With this, Kant also took as a premise the “production and the
relation of production”—the domain that Marx scrutinized in Capi-
tal. To Kant, the use of others’ humanity as a means was already an
inevitability in the “production and the relation of production” in
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the commodity economy. Any account of human relations that over-
looks this concern is merely a ‘monastery’ or ‘dormitory’ daydream,
from the hotbeds of those who use the humanity of the ‘faithful’
and ‘parents’ merely as a means. Kantian ethics tends to be de-
graded only because it is read as if speaking to ‘an end but not
means’ in the place of “an end, never merely as a means.” The king-
dom of the end exists upon a material and economic basis, and the
‘personalism’, when the base matters are not taken into considera-
tion, cannot help but becoming a priestly sermon. Taking this as-
pect of Kant into consideration, Cohen called him “the true
originator of German socialism.”
Communist society, for that mat-
ter, must be a society where others are treated as an end at the same
time as a means; and communism is possible only by reorganizing the
social system where people are treated merely as a means. In other
words, here apodictically arrives the regulative idea of superseding
The dominant trend in contemporary ethics is the utilitarianism
rebuked by Kant. This considers good as if it were calculable like in-
terest. Along this line, ethics is reduced to economics, not to mention
that it was coined from the standpoint of capitalist development. As
opposed to this tendency, John Rawls (b. 1921) insisted on social
justice by invoking Kant. His idea was to dissolve social inequality by
redistributing wealth relying on cumulative taxation. This was the
same as the idea of a welfare society or social democracy. It lacked
motivation toward a society where others are treated as an end at the
same time as a means. But something happened in the 1980s when he
began to pose “Kantian constructivism.” He began to advocate the
democratic system of possessions as an alternative to capitalism. His
idea of liberal socialism is no longer identical to the social democ-
racy based upon the redistribution of wealth within the confinement
of capitalism. His idea of the 1980s is very close to communism qua
associationism in the sense of Proudhon and Marx. Though his idea
still lacks practical orientation, the fact that he came to pose this idea
is an encouraging example: inasmuch as one thinks about ethics not
from the vantage point of good/bad and happiness/interest but
Kantian freedom, it is apodictic to induce communism qua associa-
tionism. If so, how could the communists of the mid-nineteenth
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century be unconcerned with Kantian ethics? From its fountain-
head, communism was an ethico-economic problematic.
Marx’s communism cannot be considered merely as a necessity of
natural history, but also as an ethical intervention. Young Marx
wrote about the “categorical imperative” of communism: “The criti-
cism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest being for
man, hence with the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in
which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable being.”
This drew a response from Ernst Bloch, who had criticized the
Marburg School as a Kantian revisionism of Marxian doctrine and
still stressed as follows: “This material ‘categorical imperative’ is by
no means, as alleged by the bisectors of Marx, confined to the young
Marx. No part of it was suppressed when Marx transferred what he
had formerly termed ‘real humanism’ into the materialist philoso-
phy of history.”
It must be said that lurking behind this “categorical
imperative” is a thread of Kantian thinking. Communism as practice
is neither merely economic nor merely moral. To adapt Kant’s
rhetoric, communism without economic basis is empty, while com-
munism without moral basis is blind.
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Transposition and Critique
4.1 Transposition
Marx left a massive amount of work. But fragmentary as it is, it is im-
possible to induce Marx’s philosophy or political economy or com-
munism out of the corpus. It was Engels who, after Marx’s death,
first sought to make it into a system. He constructed an edifice of
Marxism in conformity with the Hegelian system: dialectic material-
ism (vis-à-vis logic), natural dialectics (vis-à-vis the philosophy of na-
ture), historical materialism (vis-à-vis the philosophy of history),
political economy and state theory (vis-à-vis the philosophy of right),
and so on. Since then, Marxism has striven to perfect this system,
including theories of literature and art (qua aesthetics). Yet these
projects have become increasingly far-fetched.
It appears to me that Marx never intended to systematize his
thought, not because he could not, but because he chose not to. To
understand Marx’s intervention, one has to bracket the conven-
tional categories of political economy, philosophy, and political phi-
losophy. It is necessary to observe Marx’s footwork, regardless of the
targeted object. And in so doing, there is one clear thing that stands
out—Marx’s thought existed as nothing other than a critique of pre-
vious thought. Capital, the book written systematically—though left
incomplete—is subtitled Kritik der politischen Ökonomie [Critique of
National Economy]: a book of critique. But this critique is far from a
condemnation. Marx never intended to construct a certain positive
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doctrine upon the denial of his predecessors, that is, Ricardo or
Hegel or any one else. Neither was he an epigone of any of them. It
is crucial to read Marx’s corpus as critique. I believe that his critique
will never lose its significance, even as the historical contexts in
which it appeared become obsolete. Thus my objective is to recover
the function and significance of his critique and recognize what
kind of epistemological light it sheds on the coming ages.
Marx once told his daughters to “doubt everything” on principle.
But this doubt of ‘everything’ should be distinguished from unprin-
cipled skepticism. To Marx, doubting was not separate from living.
What kind of life was it? Marx persisted in doubting the subject qua
the substantial center, and saw it as a product of relational structure.
Where, then, does the doubting subject exist? This is the question
that was omitted by the major trend of thought that fabricated the
false dichotomy of Marxism and existentialism, and so on. This line
of thought ignored the very existence of Marx.
In the first place I disagree with the common framework that op-
poses Marx to Descartes and/or Kant. As I have mentioned, cogito,
the doubting subject, appears in between systems, in between com-
munities. And this interstice is a space of sheer difference; finally, it
is insubstantial and amorphous. It cannot be spoken of positively; no
sooner than it is, its function is lost. It is a transcendental topos—a
space for transcritique. Yet at the same time, to approach this space,
one must begin with a reference to concrete space, and for that one
can turn to some cities where radical intercourse occurred, like
Amsterdam, Königsberg, and London. Descartes wrote about
Amsterdam, where he lived in exile, as a place where “in the crowd
of a great, active people, and of one more concerned with its own af-
fairs than curious about those of others, I have been able, without
lacking any of the conveniences that there are in the most fre-
quented towns, to live as solitarily and retired as in the most remote
Cartesian cogito, the subject of radical skepticism, cannot
be grasped if separated from this kind of space. Later in his life,
Descartes lost the critical aspect of cogito and his thinking resulted
in the thinking subject (transcendental ego), parallel, it seems, to
his return to Paris, where he became an authoritarian figure—the
founder of Cartesianism.
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Transposition and Critique
Kant, for his part, rarely left Königsberg during his lifetime.
Among philosophers, Kant was perhaps the least inclined to travel.
But Königsberg, though geographically remote, was not in the least
a rustic, provincial town. It was one of the commercial centers of the
Baltic Sea, then the site of the most active Northern European trade.
It was a city where various kinds of information intersected. Kant
wrote about it:
A city like Königsberg on the river Pregel, the capital of a state, where the
representative National Assembly of the government resides, a city with a
university (for the cultivation of the sciences), a city also favored by its loca-
tion for maritime commerce, and which, by way of rivers, has the advan-
tages of commerce both with the interior of the country as well as with
neighboring countries of different languages and customs, can well be
taken as an appropriate place for enlarging one’s knowledge of people as
well as of the world at large, where such knowledge can be acquired even
without travel.
Because of the sea traffic, it was in a sense closer to London, the cap-
ital of the British Empire, than Berlin was. Königsberg, having once
belonged to East Prussia, was later occupied by Russia and has been
a part of it ever since. Kant’s cosmopolitanism is inseparable from
the atmosphere of the city—which, one can say, he chose. Like Hegel
and Fichte, Kant was invited to teach at the state academy in Berlin;
unlike the others, he rejected the invitation. Had he accepted, he
would have been compelled to think from the standpoint of the
‘state’. Hence, Kant’s refusal was in a sense a transposition, and an
‘exile’ lacking physical movement.
And Marx. When considering him, too, one is drawn into think-
ing about transposition and its significance in the formation of
thought. But one cannot simplemindedly emphasize Marx the
refugee. For the fact is that Marx was deported and exiled to Britain,
but he was later pardoned and returned home for a brief period in
the 1850s. He then chose to return to England and London, be-
cause this nation—the most advanced in capitalist development—and
its capital were ideal for his analysis of capitalism. Therefore, he can-
not plainly be considered a political refugee. He chose to live in Lon-
don. The point to be stressed is that Marx also thought in the
interstice—the transcritical space—where one has to confront
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different languages, thoughts, and value systems; and from which it
is impossible to induce a certain positive doctrine.
When he was in exile in Paris in 1843, Marx wrote Economic and
Philosophical Manuscripts. Those reflections—often identified as early
Marx—epitomize an application of the Feuerbachian theory of self-
alienation to the political economy, an approach similar to the one
Moses Hess had already rendered. In this sense, it is possible to say
that Marx at that time was still within the problematic consciousness
of the Young Hegelians. Soon after, he wrote Holy Family; and two
years later, in 1845, he was expelled from France and moved to
Brussels. There he wrote Theses on Feuerbach and, in collaboration
with Engels, The German Ideology.
Louis Althusser famously considered Marx’s turn in this period
crucial, calling it an “epistemological break”
and implying that
Marx not only overturned Hegel’s philosophy materialistically, but
also realized a discontinuous transformation of, or development
from, the Hegelian framework itself. This is certainly a radical turn.
Meanwhile, my transcritical position observes that it is not the only
radical turn that occurred in Marx.
In reference to Kant’s Copernican turn, I remarked earlier that it
is commonly understood as a remarkable revolution from geocen-
trism to heliocentrism, but that such an idea had existed since
long before Copernicus. It was finally constituted as a theory by
Copernicus—only thanks to his shift from the position that the sub-
ject passively perceives the objective world to the position that ob-
jects are composed by the form of the active subject. It was the latter
that Kant appeared to consider important. But when, in conse-
quence, post-Kantian idealism was established around this position
and flourished, another, more ultimate destination of the Kantian
turn—that one is thrown into the world, instead of the world
being of one’s own composition—was forgotten. At that point Kant
quickly intervened to refute those idealists who had grown under his
influence. In the history of science, the event of the Copernican
turn happened only once. But in Kant, the Copernican turn oc-
curred more than once. For the Kantian critique involved incessant
transposition and was not rooted in a static positionality. I call this
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Transposition and Critique
It is also possible to propose a “Marxian turn” as such. The early
Marx, who was one of the Young Hegelians, was faithful to Feuerbach’s
materialist overturning of Hegelian idealism. Feuerbach’s critique
of religion argued that God is a self-alienation of the generic essence
(or the species-being) of humans, and that individuals as sensuous
beings should recover their generic essence. The early Marx basi-
cally relied upon this critique, except that he transposed and extended
the account of ‘self-alienation’ to the domains of the monetary econ-
omy and the state. In this context, Marx observed: “The basis of irre-
ligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man.
Religion is the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has al-
ready lost himself again. But man is no abstract being encamped out-
side the world. Man is the world of man, the state, society. This state,
this society, produce religion, an inverted world-consciousness, because
they are an inverted world.”
What is noteworthy here is that Marx goes on to liken this over-
turn to the Copernican turn:
The criticism of religion disillusions man to make him think and act and
shape his reality like a man who has been disillusioned and has come to rea-
son, so that he will revolve round himself and therefore round his true sun.
Religion is only the illusory sun which revolves round man as long as he
does not revolve around himself. The task of history, therefore, once the
world beyond the truth has disappeared, is to establish the truth of this world.
The immediate task of philosophy, which is at the service of history, once the
holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked, is to unmask
human self-estrangement in its unholy forms. Thus the criticism of heaven
turns into the criticism of the earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism
of law and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.
This materialist overturn may appear to be decisive, but it is still
incomplete. The true Copernican turn of Marx later expressed
itself when he criticized this materialism and affirmed an active mo-
ment, conversely, in the idealism: “The chief defect of all previous
materialism—that of Feuerbach included—is that the object [Gegen-
stand], reality, and sensuousness are conceived only in the form of
the object, or of contemplation, but not as human sensuous activity, prac-
tice, and not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side,
in contradiction to materialism, was set forth by idealism—but only
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abstractly, since, of course, idealism does not know real, sensuous ac-
tivity as such.”
Marx’s Copernican turn, too, occurred more than once; and the
discursive transpositions were always accompanied by travel between
real existing places. The German Ideology was written from such an
If we wish to rate at its true value this philosophic charlatanry, which awak-
ens even in the breast of the righteous German citizen a glow of patriotic
feeling, if we wish to bring out clearly the pettiness, the parochial narrow-
ness of this whole Young-Hegelian movement and in particular the tragi-
comic contrast between the illusions of these heroes about their
achievements and the actual achievements themselves, we must look at the
whole spectacle from a standpoint beyond the frontiers of Germany.
The standpoint that locates itself as “beyond the frontiers of
Germany” is not simply a real place like France or England. This is the
difference, as it were, between German discourse and French/English
discourse. As a point of fact, Marx’s attempt, in collaboration
with Arnold Ruge, to establish the German-French Annual Journal
[Deutsche-Französische Jahrbücher], namely, to combine German phi-
losophy and French political movements editorially, was contemptu-
ously ignored by French activists. There was no possible way for the
French Socialists, who had matured through real political experi-
ences, to accept a theory deduced merely from philosophy. It was
not national antagonism that prevented the easy acceptance of such
a project but actual experience. Young Marx, who had abundant
self-confidence, had to learn the hard lesson that German philoso-
phy turned to be irrelevant or odd “beyond the frontiers of Ger-
many,” and that there was a ‘reality’ developing far away from the
In contrast, for Engels there was no such repercussion from be-
yond the German frontiers, for he had long been exposed to the
realities of capitalism in Britain, and in confronting classical eco-
nomics. In many ways, he was much more mature than Marx. On
the occasion of publishing part of The German Ideology in 1888, years
after it was written, Engels stressed that historical materialism was
first formulated in that book, and by Marx. Concerning this, in the
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Transposition and Critique
early 1960s, the Japanese philosopher Wataru Hiromatsu presented
evidence that challenged that assertion. Hiromatsu conducted an
elaborate text critique of The German Ideology, and showed that the
text on Feuerbach was mostly written by Engels; Marx’s participation
was limited to some crucial revisions here and there; and further-
more, comparing the earlier writings of both, he proved that Engels
had conceptualized historical materialism first.
What Hiromatsu
wanted to say was that Engels was, at that point, theoretically more
advanced than Marx, who was still in the paradigm of the Young
Why, then, didn’t Engels simply spell out his advanced position?
I believe it was not because of any humility, but rather because it was
his intention to construct ‘Marxism’ after Marx’s death.
Marx himself did not use the words, ‘historical materialism’, but
seems to have persisted in so-called economic determinism: that
economic infrastructure determines superstructure. This manner of
seeing things is correct if and only if one is deliberately engaged in
an ex post facto analysis of history from a long perspective—and that
is the only case. In his The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,
Max Weber stressed the importance of the role played by the Reli-
gious Reformation qua superstructure in the development of indus-
trial capitalism. But the Religious Reformation itself could not have
come into existence if not for the social transformation that had ac-
companied the osmosis of the commodity economy in the first
place. Hence Weber’s observation cannot wholly surpass the general
thesis: economic infrastructure determines superstructure. When
observing historical events, however, one has to take into considera-
tion various causalities (reciprocal causality) at the same time. In
The German Ideology, Marx and Engels were extra-cautious about this
aspect. They insisted on seeing history rather from an empiricist
But in Britain such was not a new or innovative stance,
but rather common at that time. For instance, at the end of The The-
ory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith announced his future research
project, which was never realized. In reading his idea, one discerns
the kind of empiricism that could have developed into historical
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The historical materialism completed by Engels was therefore a
view of history that had appeared thanks to the establishment of in-
dustrial capitalism. That is to say that industrial capitalism made the
materialist view of seeing the historical past possible, while the
view—historical materialism—cannot elucidate capitalism. The com-
modity economy under capitalism has itself a potency to organize
the world, and this potency is in a sense an ideational power par ex-
cellence. So it is that the capitalist economy is not infrastructure per
se. Yet neither is it superstructure per se. In order to take the capital-
ist economy into account, one has to, once and for all, discard
historical materialism’s framework of infra/superstructures. The
movement of capitalism, as perverted a form as it may be, has an ac-
tive aspect. As Marx pointed out in his “Theses on Feuerbach,” it was
Hegel, rather than positivist historians, who understood it clearly.
For this reason, Marx returned to Hegel as soon as he began his
critique of political economy work in the 1850s.
In any event, it is true that Marx came after Engels in terms of his-
torical materialism. This delay was due to his engagement in the cri-
tique of religion. He was seeking to grasp state and money as a sort
of religion. And he never abandoned this project; Capital was written
as a development of his earlier concerns. Therefore, what makes The
German Ideology so important is not its new view of history, but Marx’s
parallax caused by his ‘delay’. Engles wrote, “It has not occurred to
any one of these philosophers to inquire into the connection of
German philosophy with German reality, the relation of their criti-
cism to their own material surroundings.”
Then, what about Marx,
who had been within the circle of German philosophy up until the
moment his life in exile began? It had not occurred to him, either.
This awareness that must have finally occurred to him, while reading
the passage, must have been totally different from the flat and static
scheme of historical materialism (similar as it may seem): namely,
that German philosophy (qua superstructure) is determined by
German material circumstances. What finally struck Marx outside
Germany was the pronounced parallax.
Then, in 1844 in Paris, Marx wrote in The Holy Family:
The maitre d’ecole describes correctly the condition to which isolation from
the outer world reduces a man. For one to whom the sensuously perceptible
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Transposition and Critique
world becomes a mere idea, for him mere ideas are transformed into sensu-
ously perceptible beings. The figments of his brain assume corporeal form.
A world of tangible, palpable ghosts is begotten within his mind. That is
the secret of all pious visions and at the same time it is the general form of
German Idealism was established at the point that the moment of
sensibility qua passivity (in Kant’s conceptualization) was discarded,
and, as Marx criticized, what it created was little more than a world
of “pious visions” or “insanity.” But what Marx stresses here is be-
yond the matter of the philosophical stance per se. To this transcriti-
cal Marx, the positionality—whether or not materialist, radical,
concerned with exteriority, and so on—makes little difference if it is
caught within an enclosed discursive system. All in all, what isolates
thinkers, including Marx himself, from the outer world is neither
national frontier nor psychosis, but each’s own discursive system.
And this fact strikes them only when they are dislocated and out of
the system. This outside is not another positionality, however. Marx is
not criticizing the idealism from a certain new positionality. For
Marx’s transcritical materialism exists only in the “parallax” between
idealism and empiricism. If the parallax is lost, that is, if it turns out
to be a positionality, even materialism will be another “optical illu-
sion,” to use Kant’s term. Marx continues: “Whilst in ordinary life
every shopkeeper is very well able to distinguish between what some-
body professes to be and what he really is, our historiography has
not yet won even this trivial insight. It takes every epoch at its word
and believes that everything it says and imagines about itself is
The Marxian transcritique appears only in the awareness of
the gap between what one thinks (understanding) and what one
really is (sensibility). Marx, who had seen Germany from the outside,
several years later came to see France from the outside. In contrast
to the German scene, the discourses in France were not produced
only within philosophers’ fantasies, but in relationship with real po-
litical struggles. But here, too, “it has not occurred to any one of
[these revolutionaries] to inquire into the connection of [French]
philosophy with [French] reality, the relation of their criticism to their
own material surroundings.” They could not distinguish “between the
illusions about their achievements and the actual achievements
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themselves.” In this sense, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte
was written in the manner of “The French Ideology,” as it were.
4.2 The System of Representation: Darstellung and Vertretung
As Marx’s transcritical stance revealed, German ideologues thought
and spoke under the design of Hegelian philosophy. Things were
not the same, however, vis-à-vis French ideologues. Expressing them-
selves as representatives of political parties, they were less speculative
than practical. And yet, in the minds of everyone—participants and
observers alike—the process of the real political events dating from
February 24, 1848 to December 2, 1851, appeared as an incompre-
hensible, uncanny dream. To Marx, it was self-evident that at the
substratum of the series of events, the drama, were the social classes
and their struggles. But what he sought in The Eighteenth Brumaire
of Louis Bonaparte was not to point out the base structure, but to
illuminate the way the political process was formed by a dreamlike
metamorphosis. The primary characteristic of the affair was that the
dramatic personae were dressed in the linguistic costume of the first
French Revolution (1789–1799), and further that the whole event
came to be resolved along the plot lines of the past affair. In order
to decode the new affair—that notoriously resulted in the inaugura-
tion of Louis Bonaparte as emperor—simply pointing out the ‘infra-
structure’ was obviously insufficient. Thus Marx employed the
process of the first French Revolution as an a priori form, so to
speak, that constituted the process of events.
Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please;
they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under
circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.
The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the
brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing
themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed,
precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up
the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle
cries and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in
this time-honored disguise and his borrowed language. Thus Luther
donned the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789 to 1814
draped itself alternately as the Roman republic and the Roman empire, and
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Transposition and Critique
the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now
1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793 to 1795.
It was the ghosts and ideas from the past that were ruling the parties
of the time: they could understand what they were doing only in
terms of the past; that is, they were dominated by the historical
words and phrases—language. If so, it was isomorphic to what Marx
pointed out with respect to the German philosophers: that they were
too eager to fiddle with Hegelian problems and criticize Hegel by
expanding this or that detail of the Hegelian system, but that they
were finally little more than an undersized representation, a farce,
of Hegel himself. While Hegel at least posed a system of thought
outright, the Young Hegelians, merely as his chorus, were obsessed
with arguments, ostensibly grandiose, but in actuality empty and
fruitless. For the German philosophers, the Hegelian system as “the
tradition of all the dead generations weigh[ed] like a nightmare on
the[ir living] brain.” The Eighteenth Brumaire thus performed a dex-
terous satire of Hegel’s Philosophy of History. In the process of the
political drama of 1848 to 1851, Louis, the nephew of Napoleon
Bonaparte (who was, for Hegel, the very epitome of a world histori-
cal individual [weltgeschichtliches Individuum]) came to hold the seat
of power by resorting to that very same illusion of the world histori-
cal individual; and this notwithstanding that he had no ideal nor
assignment to be realized other than his given role—to repress, as
long as possible, the contradictions inherent in the capitalist econ-
omy by way of state intervention. In this manner, Louis Bonaparte
became the enduring prototype for all counterrevolutionaries,
including twentieth-century fascists.
What Marx paid attention to most in this text was the aspect that
this particular process of events came into existence within the par-
liamentary system (the system of representatives) as a given. The rev-
olution of February 1848 delivered universal suffrage for the first
time, and this was accomplished under the republicanism that had
abolished the monarchy. The process that was brought to a close by
the installment of petit Louis the Emperor could have occurred only
under the bourgeois parliamentary system. Marx pointed out the
existence of the real social classes behind the representation. Later
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Engels again attributed to Marx the discovery that behind the
ideological (i.e., political, religious, philosophical) representations
[Darstellung] there exists the economic class structure, and that the
struggle between classes is driven by the ‘law of history’. Reading the
text closely, however, what Marx discovered in the series of events
was quite the reverse: The conjunctures developed independent of,
or even contrary to, the economic class structure. What he sought to
elucidate were the autonomous “operations” of events as such. And
the agent of the operations was obviously the institution of the rep-
resentative system [Vertretung] itself. In the parliamentary system
based upon universal suffrage, the representative system is thor-
oughly “fictitious” as compared to Ständeversammlung—an assembly
of different castes/professions from preindustrial Europe, as Hans
Kelsen later claimed.
That is to say that there is no apodictic rap-
port between the representer and the represented in the institution
of representatives. The point Marx stressed here was that the acts
and discourses of political parties were independent of the real
classes. Or to use Kenneth Burke’s expression in The Grammar of
Motives, the real classes are little more than “class unconsciousness”
which can come into consciousness as classes only in the discursive
arena of political parties.
In the following passage, Marx explains the arbitrariness of the
relation between representer and represented:
Just as little must one imagine that the democratic representatives are in-
deed all shopkeepers or enthusiastic champions of shopkeepers. In their
education and individual position they may be as far apart as heaven from
earth. What makes them representatives of the petty bourgeoisie is the fact
that in their minds they do not get beyond the limits which the latter do not
get beyond in life, that they are consequently driven, theoretically, to the
same problems and solutions to which material interest and social position
drive the latter in practice. This is, in general, the relationship between the
political and literary representatives of a class and the class they represent.
And elsewhere, he says:
The parliamentary party was not only dissolved into its two great factions,
each of these factions was not only split up within itself, but the party of
Order in parliament had fallen out with the party of Order outside parlia-
ment. The spokesmen and scribes of the bourgeoisie, its platform and its
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Transposition and Critique
press, in short, the ideologists of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie itself,
the representatives and the represented, were alienated from one another
and no longer understood each another.
Only because the relationship between the representative and the
represented is arbitrary was it possible that the industrial bour-
geoisie as well as other classes, could abandon their representatives
and choose Louis Bonaparte. At the point in time of February 24,
1848, parties existed as representatives of classes, namely, they ap-
peared as difference in the discursive arena. In only three years, how-
ever, Bonaparte somehow seized power as the representative of all.
Marx refused to ascribe this to the person of Bonaparte: his ideals,
politics, psychology, or character. No matter what kind of scope one
employs, it is impossible to decode the enigma of Bonaparte, who
was a nobody (except for being Napoleon’s nephew) three years
before, who came to seize the throne of Emperor.
As Marx says in Capital, it is easy to see that money is a commodity,
but the challenge is to figure out how a commodity becomes money;
it is the same conundrum that Marx observed vis-à-vis Bonaparte. As
opposed to Victor Hugo, who “confines himself to bitter and witty
invective against the responsible publisher of the coup d’Etat,” Marx
declares he would “demonstrate how the class struggle in France cre-
ated circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a
grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part.”
To be certain, no mat-
ter how many times one repeats criticism like Hugo’s (precisely like
repeating that money is simply a piece of paper), it does not amount
to a criticism of anything. Nonetheless, neither can Marx’s enigma—
how it is possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part—be
elucidated by resorting to the ‘class struggle’. That the representative
(qua discursive) system exists autonomously; that classes come into
consciousness only via this system; and that the system is porous—
here exists the enigma that made Bonaparte Emperor.
According to Engels, “It was precisely Marx who had first discov-
ered the great law of motion of history, the law according to which
all historical struggles, whether they proceed in political, religious,
philosophical or some other ideological domain, are in fact only the
more or less clear expression of struggles of social classes.”
But, as
Wataru Hiromatsu observed, as far as such a stance is concerned, it
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should have been Engels’s before Marx’s.
The crucial point here is
that social classes can appear as they are only by way of the dis-
courses (of their representatives), and not in the least according to
“the great law of motion of history.” But Marx also points to the exis-
tence of a class which, without representatives, without discourses
that speak for their class interest, has to be represented by someone
totally unrelated to them.
In so far as millions of families live under economic conditions of existence
that separate their mode of life, their interests and their culture from those
of the other classes, and put them in hostile opposition to the latter, they
form a class. In so far as there is merely a local interconnection among
these small-holding peasants, and the identity of their interests begets no
community, no national bond and no political organization among them,
they do not form a class. They are consequently incapable of enforcing
their class interest in their own name, whether through a parliament or
through a convention. They cannot represent themselves, they must be rep-
resented. Their representative must at the same time appear as their mas-
ter, as an authority over them, as an unlimited governmental power that
protects them against the other classes and sends them rain and sunshine
from above. The political influence of the small-holding peasants, there-
fore, finds its final expression in the executive power subordinating society
to itself.
The fact was that the small-holding peasants who first appeared on
the political stage supported Bonaparte. But they welcomed him not
as their representative but as their Emperor. We have seen that, es-
pecially from the twentieth century onward, this class has welcomed
and supported Fascism most fervently. But more crucially, it was the
system of representative democracy that gave them this role in the
political theatre.
For instance, Hitler’s regime came into existence
from within the ideal representative system of the Weimar Republic.
A fact unknown to the West and often ignored is that the Emperor
[Tenno] Fascism of Japan appeared only after the realization of uni-
versal suffrage in 1928. In the 1930s in Europe, Marxists considered
Hitler simply as an agent for the bourgeois economy—seeking to
save it from crisis—and thought it would be enough to reveal that
‘infra-structural’ fact. Like the Nazis, Marxists also found the
Weimar congress deceitful. But the masses gradually chose to be
represented by Nazism, as opposed to Marxists’ expectations. This
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Transposition and Critique
cannot be explained merely by the effects of Nazis’ shrewd manipula-
tion of passion and violence combined. From the beginning, the
communist party was also one of the representatives which could not
claim any apodictic connection with the represented, the proletariat.
With the experiences of the failure of the revolution after World
War I and the resulting fascism, ‘the relative autonomy of super-
structure’ became one of the Marxists’ key concepts. In criticizing
the Marxists of the time, Wilhelm Reich used psychoanalytic theory
to find the cause of Germans being drawn to Nazism. It was there he
discovered the “authoritarian family ideology” and its sexual repres-
Later, the Frankfurt School introduced psychoanalysis into
the analysis of the mechanism of Fascism, too. In this context, psycho-
analysis definitely became a new tool for analyzing superstructure. In
order to tackle Fascism, however, one should rather return first to
The Eighteenth Brumaire. In this text, Marx almost preempted the
Freudian stance of The Interpretation of Dreams. He analyzes the series
of dreamlike events that occurred during the period of time, em-
phasizing not the “dream thoughts,” that is, expressions of real class
relations, but the “dream work [Traumarbeit]”: how class uncon-
scious is condensed and transferred. For that matter—to the favor of
our transcritical view—Freud himself used the metaphor of the rep-
resentative system in his New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis:
The dream is seen to be an abbreviated selection from the associations, a se-
lection made, it is true, according to rules that we have not yet understood:
the elements of the dream are like representatives chosen by election from
a mass of people. There can be no doubt that by our technique we have got
hold of something for which the dream is a substitute and in which lies the
dream’s psychical value, but which no longer exhibits its puzzling peculiari-
ties, its strangeness and its confusion.
Freud himself likens dream work to a congress elected by universal
suffrage. If so, instead of introducing psychoanalysis into an analysis
of Marx’s text, we should rather read psychoanalysis from the stand-
point of The Eighteenth Brumaire. Thus fascism qua Bonapartism is
revealed in its most crucial dynamism—a collapse of representation
as the solution to the unrepresentable.
Louis Althusser made an effort to explain the relative autonomy of
superstructure with the concept of “overdetermination,” borrowed
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from Lacanian theory, as opposed to the conventional economic de-
terminism. In my opinion, this is a general theoretical reinterpreta-
tion of historical materialism, and thereby lacks the moment to
analyze concrete facts and situations. In contrast, Marx’s analytical
device in The Eighteenth Brumaire is much more specific and intricate.
What he is pointing to is the duplicity of the representational system
itself: on the one hand there is congress qua legislative power, and
on the other there is presidency qua administrative power. The latter
is chosen by the direct vote of the people. (In fact, Louis Bonaparte
advocated universal suffrage in opposition to the Republican Party,
which sought to limit voters. As a result, he became popular as the
“representative of the nation.” Thereafter he appealed repeatedly to
national referendums, precisely as Hitler did.) But the difference
between a congress and presidency lies not merely in the way they
are elected. As Carl Schmitt explained, the parliamentary system is
liberalistic in the sense that it governs through discussion, while the
presidency is democratic in the sense that it represents the “general
will” (i.e., in the sense of Diderot and Rousseau). Schmitt further
states that dictatorship contradicts liberalism but not necessarily
democracy. “Bolshevism and Fascism by contrast are, like all dicta-
torships, certainly antiliberal but not necessarily antidemocratic. . . .
The will of the people can be expressed just as well and perhaps bet-
ter through acclamation, through something taken for granted, an
obvious and unchallenged presence, than through the statistical ap-
paratus that has been constructed with such meticulousness in the
last fifty years.”
This problematic consciousness had already been explicit in
Rousseau, who had derisively criticized the British Parliament, a rep-
resentative system as follows: “My argument, then, is that sover-
eignty, being nothing other than the exercise of the general will,
can never be alienated; and that the sovereign, which is simply a col-
lective being, cannot be represented by anyone but itself—power
may be delegated, but the will cannot be. . . . If a people promises
simply and solely to obey, it dissolves itself by that very pledge; it
ceases to be a people; for once there is a master, there is no longer a
sovereign, and the body politics is therefore annihilated.”
ing the example of Greek direct democracy, Rousseau disparaged
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Transposition and Critique
the representative system. This position would result either in the
Hegelian stance that saw the general will not in the parliament but
in another administrative power—the bureaucrat—or in the urge to
replace the parliamentary representative system with the directness
of a national referendum. (It goes without saying that the direct
national referendum is nevertheless nothing but another form of
representative system.)
Furthermore, the problematic of the political representative system
corresponds to the larger problematic of representation. The differ-
ence between parliament and presidency as representational forms
corresponds to that of epistemological representations. That is, on
one hand, there is the Cartesian position—that truth can be deduced
from a priori clear evidence—and on the other hand, there is the po-
sition common in Anglo-American philosophy—that truth can exist
only as a tentative hypothesis attained by agreement among others. In
the political context, the former is equal to the idea that the general
will is represented by Being beyond conflicting individuals and classes,
while the latter is equal to the idea that the general will must consis-
tently be determined by agreement through discussion. What is clear
is that, as with Heidegger’s discontent, both are modernist thoughts—
seeking truth not directly but only via representation.
Heidegger radically criticized both positions. And politically,
he denied both presidency and parliament. To him, truth had to be
disclosed (erschlissen) directly by Being via a poet-thinker—the
führer. In such a context, Heidegger insisted that the national refer-
endum Hitler organized should not be an election to choose
—but a direct revelation (Erschlossenheit). But, in my
context, this is another form of representation, and perhaps its ulti-
mate collapse: an imaginary and aesthetic synthesis of the split of
the contradicting classes. What Heidegger insisted was that the
führer be an emperor to whom the nation pays obeisance as their
master, rather than its representative elected via a national referen-
dum. In the story of Bonaparte’s victory, one sees precisely the first
instance of the crisis of representation and the imaginary sublation
of the contradictions therein. In this sense, The Eighteenth Brumaire
takes in advance the essential elements of political crises that there-
after appeared and reappeared.
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Then, what does an emperor who is neither parliament nor presi-
dent embody? Nothing other than the state. The bourgeois state is
constituted by overthrowing the absolutist monarchy. Its nature is
that by exhibiting constitutionalism and the representative system, it
conceals the substantive ingredients of the state—including its bu-
reaucratic and military organizations. “The executive power with its
enormous bureaucratic and military organization, with its extensive
and artificial state machinery, with a host of officials numbering half
a million, besides an army of another half million, this appalling
parasitic body, which enmeshes the body of French society like a net
and chokes all its pores, sprang up in the days of the absolute
monarchy, with the decay of feudal system, which it helped to has-
Precisely as money is deemed the means to represent com-
modity’s value, in the bourgeois state, bureaucracy and the army
appear to belong to the organ that represents the will of the nation.
At moments of crises, however, the ‘state-in-itself’ appears, precisely
as, in economic crises, ‘money-in-itself’ appears. Marx continues:
“Only under the second Bonaparte does the state seem to have
made itself completely independent. As against civil society, the state
machine has consolidated its position so thoroughly . . .”
That is to
say that when the bourgeois economy reaches a deadlock, the state
organ intervenes under the name of the emperor.
In Capital, Marx registered only three classes: capitalists, landown-
ers, and wage workers. These are sheer aliases of the economic cate-
gories: capital, ground rent, and labor power commodity; and the
real formations of the social hierarchy are much more complex than
this triad. Even in Britain, which Marx selected for his model, there
was no such tripartite division; rather various classes, including “all
the dead generations,” existed in reality. In France, worse still, there
were few industrial laborers in 1848. And those whom Marx called
‘proletariat’ in The Eighteenth Brumaire were very much those crafts-
men who turned radical, having been deprived of their jobs by the
osmosis of British industrial capital. This is why they too ended up
supporting Louis Bonaparte, the Saint-Simonist on horseback, whose
slogans were state-led economic development and social welfare.
What Marx sought to present in Capital was not the prospect that the
development of industrial capital would lead to the tripartite class
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division, but the principles of the capitalist economy that are over-
looked under the complex formation of the real social hierarchy.
This division, therefore, should not be mechanically employed as a
scheme for actual historical development.
By scrutinizing the French experience in The Eighteenth Brumaire,
Marx grasps class and class struggle as difference forming a polymor-
phous complex, and politics as a matter of discursive and represen-
tative apparati. He also, however, offers a principal reflection upon
the relationship between state and capital, taking France as a model.
In his Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Engels stated that Marx’s
thought consisted of German philosophy, French socialism, and
English political economy. I would rather say that it really exists in
his transcritique between them. Written in a journalistic style, The
Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte yet offers a principal reflection,
different from yet certainly as important as the one in Capital—the
critique of nation-state (polis) economics [Zur Kritik der Politischen
Ökonomie]. It should be read as the critique of national politics, as it were.
To conclude this chapter on political representation, I would like
to touch upon what ‘dictatorship of the bourgeoisie’ meant to Marx,
because it is certainly not irrelevant to his ‘dictatorship of the prole-
tariat’. It is crucial to note that Marx saw a dictatorship of the bour-
geoisie in universal suffrage, the backdrop of the coup of the
Eighteenth Brumaire, rather than a direct violent means of rule. It is
a system wherein people of all classes participate in the elections.
But that is not all—at the same time, and inversely, in this system, all
individuals are, for the first time, separated in principle from all class
relations and relations of production. The representative assembly
had already existed in the feudal system as well as in the absolutist
monarchy; but it was at the point when universal suffrage and then
secret balloting were introduced that the representative assembly
turned into the unequivocal bourgeois parliament. Hiding who votes
who for whom, secret voting liberates people from their relations;
at the same time, however, it erases the traces of their relations.
Thus the relationship between representative and represented is
radically severed once, and becomes arbitrary. So it is that the repre-
sentative chosen by secret balloting is no longer controlled by the
represented. In other words, the representative can behave as if he
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represented everyone, even though that is not the case. That is the
nature of dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. It is not quite the same as
the bourgeois class running society by occupying the parliament.
Rather it is a mechanism that erases class relations or the relations of
domination by temporarily ‘reducing’ people into ‘free and equal
individuals’—and this mechanism itself functions as the dictatorship
of the bourgeoisie. In elections, the freedom of individuals is guar-
anteed, but this exists only at the moment that the hierarchical rela-
tions in the real relations of production are suspended. So it is that
there is no democracy sensu stricto in capitalist enterprises, outside
elections. That is to say, managers are not elected by employees, and
furthermore not by their secret voting. And it is impossible that state
bureaucrats are elected by people’s direct voting. People’s freedom
exists only to the extent that they can choose their representatives
in political elections. And, in reality, universal suffrage is just an
elaborate ritual to give a public consensus to what has already been
determined by the state apparati (military and bureaucracy).
4.3 The Economic Crisis as a Parallax
Now living in exile in England and dealing with British discourse,
Marx could no longer rely on his previous approaches. He had to
shift his stance once more. In confronting German and French ideo-
logues, it was significant and even imperative to invoke the economic
class structure that was repressed in their discourses, whereas in
British discourse, the very empiricist stance that he had posed against
German philosophers and the very economic problematic that he
had introduced against French ideologues were dominant. There is
no doubt that the economic problematic was the veiled infrastruc-
ture in the idealist tradition. But it was not veiled in the English con-
text; class struggles over economic interests were especially manifest
in the climate of the mid to late nineteenth century. Both classical
economists and Ricardian socialists had been approaching the prob-
lematics of society and history via the explicitly economic standpoint.
In fact the issue concerning the exploitation of surplus-value (qua
surplus-labor)—the very notion that is believed have been coined by
Marx—had already been posed by the Ricardian socialists.
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The most crucial problem Marx encountered in England was the
potential for crisis inherent in the capitalist society. In classical eco-
nomics, there is no crisis in principle; if it were acknowledged, it
would only signify misfortune or a failure of economic policy. Classi-
cal economists disclaimed the fetishism of money inherent in their
predecessor, mercantilism. To them, money was merely a denomina-
tor of the value of commodity, that is, of the labor objectified in the
commodity or the social labor time. Ricardo writes: “Productions are
always bought by productions, or by services; money is only the
medium by which the exchange is effected.”
The enlightenment of
the political economy in this sense had been accomplished long be-
fore Marx. And it is precisely the real occasions of economic crisis
that derided such enlightenment thinking.
Marx described the nature of crisis:
Such a crisis occurs only where the ongoing chain of payments has been
fully developed, along with an artificial system for setting them. Whenever
there is a general disturbance of the mechanism, no matter what its cause,
money suddenly and immediately changes over from its merely nominal
shape, money of account, into hard cash. Profane commodities can no
longer replace it. The use-value of commodities becomes valueless, and
their value vanishes in the face of their own form of value. The bourgeois,
drunk with prosperity and arrogantly certain of himself, has just declared
that money is a purely imaginary creation. ‘Commodities alone are money’,
he said. But now the opposite cry resounds over the markets of the world:
only money is a commodity. As the heart pants after fresh water, so pants
his soul after money, the only wealth. In a crisis, the antithesis between
commodities and their value-form, money, is raised to the level of an
absolute contradiction. Hence money’s form of appearance is here also a
matter of indifference. The monetary famine remains whether payments
have to be made in gold or in credit-money, such as bank-notes.
Taking such a phenomenon in consideration, one can no longer
criticize the illusion of the capitalist economy or the illusion of
money by invoking ‘substance’—such as products or labor. For, at
the very moment of crisis, the moment the fantasy collapses, it is
money to which people throng. The “magic of money” that Ricardo
was thought to have liquidated, here returns. The first of the crises
(that thereafter recurred in ten-year cycles) hit in 1819, soon after
Ricardo published The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation in
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1817. The crisis hit precisely as the most radical critique of his eco-
nomic theory. Although money had been at work in reality in the
capitalist economy, it was theoretically cremated. In his critique of
classical economics, Marx thus ‘reintroduced’ the money they had
eliminated in their enlightenment.
Money was thoroughly absent from the perspective of classical
economics. Adam Smith was well aware that the developments of
commodity exchange and division of labor transform society, but he
overlooked the fact that both are rendered only by money, and
furthermore, only as a movement of capital. Smith wrongly believed
that the worldwide division of labor—constantly being organized
and reorganized by merchant capital—had existed since the very
onset of economic history, and it followed that money was deemed
by him a mere barometer or medium. The classical economists’
labor theory of value negated the dimension proper to commod-
ity exchange and conceptually reduced the source of value to
production in general. It cast a perspective by which to see precapi-
talist societies from the vantage point of production and relation
of production, namely, from the viewpoint of historical materi-
alism, thereby overlooking the dimension proper to the capitalist
Capital is a kind of self-increasing, self-reproductive money.
Marx’s first formulation of this is M-C-MЈ. It represents the activity of
merchant capital, with which usurers’ capital, M-MЈ is made possi-
ble. According to Marx, merchants’ capital and usurers’ capital are
“antediluvian” forms of capital. The formulation of merchants’ capi-
tal is nevertheless also consistent with industrial capital; the main
point of difference is that in industrial capital the content of C is a
complex entity, that is, C ϭmp (means of production) ϩ L (labor-
power); thus, in Marx’s equation, the movement of industrial capital
is M-{mp ϩL}-MЈ. At the stage at which industrial capital became
dominant, a divergence occurred: merchants’ capital came to be
merely commercial capital, while usurers’ capital became bank or
financial capital. But, in order to consider capital in the full sense,
one should always start from the consideration of the process M-C-MЈ,
for capital is equal to the whole process of the “transubstantiation” or
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Seen from a different angle, this process is also the process of cir-
culation: C-M and M-C, the domain where it appears that only com-
modity exchange via money is taking place. So much so that money
is merely a measure of value albeit a means of purchase and pay-
ment. What Adam Smith and David Ricardo both sought to eluci-
date was a mechanism that equilibrates and adjusts the division of
labor and exchange. This theoretical inclination was shared by both
classical and neoclassical economists. What they omitted was the fact
that expansions of division of labor and exchange happen only as
the self-reproductive movement of capital/money. Whether classical
or neoclassical, economists tend to give primary importance to the
production of wealth by division of labor and the exchange of
wealth—things which are merely the tail end of capital’s movement.
To Adam Smith, that people pursue their own profits is conse-
quently beneficial to the whole; he attributed it to the auto-adjustment
mechanism—“the invisible hands (of God)”—in the marketplace.
On the other hand, Marx located a salto mortale in M-C-MЈ, at the
moment C-MЈ is realized or not, that is, the moment when it is deter-
mined whether or not the commodity is sold. In order to escape the
critical moment and continue its self-reproductive movement, capi-
tal has to create an artificial pact of presuming that the commodity
has already been sold. This is so-called credit. Crisis is not caused
merely by an accumulation of the discouraging outcome of com-
modities not being sold, but very much by a forced revelation—at
the moment of final liquidation—that commodities that are sup-
posed to have been sold have not been sold in reality. Crisis is
caused by the overheating of credit. And this phenomenon has
existed since before the advent of industrial capitalism.
In England, German Idealism was mainly despised. Before he came
to England, Marx himself had been scorning the speculative philoso-
phy that began with Fichte—that considered Ego and Spirit as auto-
poetically creating the world—as a case of insanity isolated from the
outer world. But, ironically, in England there was an uncanny coinci-
dence between the real and the ideatic. There money-dealing capital
was autonomous—precisely like the Ego and Spirit—as a self-increasing
entity (M-MЈ). The investors thought it a matter of course that they
got interest from their savings as well as dividends from their stock
6715 CH04 UG 1/29/03 7:52 PM Page 155
investments. That is to say that speculative philosophy turned into a
daily event, as it were. The drive for expansion without production
and circulation is like the drive for ‘metaphysics’ in Kantian philoso-
phy, namely, the expansion of cognition without synthetic judgment.
The motive drive of usurers’ capital (or interest-bearing capital) is
precisely such. Marx spoke of interest-bearing capital (expressed as
M-MЈ) as follows: The formula M-MЈ “further expresses the fact that it
is the exchange-value, not the use-value, that is the decisive inherent
purpose of the movement. It is precisely because the money form of
value is its independent and palpable form of appearance that the cir-
culation form M-MЈ-M” . . ., which starts and finishes with actual
money, expresses money-making, the driving motive of capitalist pro-
duction, most palpably. The production process appears simply as an
unavoidable middle term, a necessary evil for the purpose of money-
making. (This explains why all nations characterized by the capitalist
mode of production are periodically seized by fits of giddiness in
which they try to accomplish the money-making without the media-
tion of the production process.)”
Credit and speculation appear to be frivolous, secondary things.
However, it is they that regulate the production process in reality.
Occasions of crisis reveal that. But classical economists and their fol-
lowers turned a blind eye to the parallax that crises deliver. It was
Marx who intervened to tackle the truth of capitalism vis-à-vis the
parallax. The “truth” I mean is nevertheless nothing like the so-
called evils (exploitation and alienation) of capitalism, which others
had pointed out long before Marx. Adam Smith was well aware that
the capitalist economy rendered a class division between the haves
and have-nots. Therefore, he proposed a sort of welfare economics
based upon sympathy (moral sentiments), at the same time as af-
firming the inevitable egoism of individuals. Hegel, as well, pointed
out the evil effects of civil society (based upon the market economy)
and insisted that they be solved by the power of state. Meanwhile, so-
cialists like Robert Owen and Pierre Joseph Prouhdon more radically
stated that the capitalist economy could exist thanks to the exploita-
tion of surplus-labor (theft), however, their recognition of the capi-
talist economy was not far from that of the classical economists whom
they attacked.
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For that matter, even Marx himself was, up until the mid-1850s,
not much better than these others. He had believed that crisis would
utimately collapse the capitalist society. But it was after this ‘hoping-
for-the-day theory’ failed that his understanding of capitalism deep-
ened. Up until then, Marx had thought that crises would occur due
to the anarchic impetus of capitalist production: that the crises
would break down the capitalist economy and then a revolution
would take place to finally expunge the crises as illness. From this
derived Engels and Lenin’s idea to solve the crises by way of a
planned economy. As we all know now, even though the planned
economy might succeed in avoiding crisis, it would inevitably cause
another illness.
Crisis is a chronic disease inherent in the capitalist economy, yet
also a solution to its internal defects. In other words, capitalism
makes temporary repairs to its innate problem by crises, thus it will
never collapse because of it. It can be compared with hysteria, the
springboard of Freudian psychoanalysis. For an ill patient, hysteria is
itself a solution, thanks to which the patient’s stability is secured for
the time being. But, for Freud, what was more crucial than hysteria
was the mechanism of unconscious that would cause it—which exists
in a person whether or not he or she is ill. In the same way, for
Marx, crisis was no longer the terminator of capitalist economy. It
became important only because it would reveal the truth of the capi-
talist economy that is invisible in the everyday economy. Thus Marx’s
stance on seeing the capitalist economy by way of the pronounced
parallax provoked by the crisis.
Marx wrote Capital in conformity with Hegelian Logic, wherein
the status of capital is very similar to that of Spirit (Geist). Capital is
nevertheless nothing like a materialistic inversion of the Hegelian
system. In his attempt to grasp crisis as an innate element in capital-
ism, it required Marx take a completely non-Hegelian viewpoint.
This was, I insist, the transcendental standpoint. In Kantian philoso-
phy, crisis would function like a critique of capital ϭGeist that seeks
to self-expand over its boundaries. Thus for Marx to elucidate
the drive of capitalism what was required was a kind of transcenden-
tal retrospection. In this aspect, Marxian critique comes close to
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In his Philosophy of Spirit of The Encyclopedia Logic, Hegel sees illness
as a symptom of clinging to a lower stage in spirit’s development. In
a sense, Freud’s account of psychosis is subsumed in this position.
But Freud’s method was not simply to conduct a retrospective or be-
lated search into the lower stage (i.e., infancy); he also presented
how ‘normal development’ is achieved by a forgetting of the trauma
of having encountered ‘crisis’.
In a similar framework, Marx comments on classical economics:
The unceasing fight of modern economists against the monetary and mer-
cantile systems is mainly provoked by the fact that the secret of bourgeois
production, i.e., that it is dominated by exchange value, is divulged in a
naively brutal way by these systems . . . Political economy errs in its critique
of the monetary and mercantile systems when it assails them as mere illu-
sions, as utterly wrong theories, and fails to notice that they contain in a
primitive form its own basic presuppositions.
In the well-advanced industrial capitalism, the “naively brutal way” is
oppressed, except when, in crises, a “return of the repressed” occurs.
The ideology of what economists refer to as the “healthy market econ-
omy” denies the previously existing “naively brutal ways,” but it sits on
top of them. Hence, in the style of Hegelian Logic, Marx describes the
‘development’ of industrial capitalism, from commodity to money,
from money to merchant capital, from merchant capital to industrial
capital. Nevertheless, when one reads it, one should do so backward. In
his description, the development is not a sublation of contradictions, as
commonly believed, but the development as a repression of contradic-
tions. Our task vis-à-vis Capital is thus to elucidate what is erased in the
most advanced stage and appears only in crises, by conducting a retro-
spective/belated search into the archaic form of capital. What is at
stake here is not the historical origin. It is the arché as a form whose
traces remain in the already complete capitalist economy.
In England, where classical economics and empiricist historiogra-
phy were dominant, Marx rediscovered Hegel. It was in such a
context that Marx professed himself to be Hegel’s disciple. Paradox-
ically, however, it was in this period that Marx was criticizing Hegel
most radically, much more than during the period he was techni-
cally criticizing various details of Hegelian philosophy. In fact, the
book entitled Capital: The Critique of National Economics could have
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Transposition and Critique
been entitled Capital: The Critique of Hegelian Philosophy of Right. Peo-
ple refer back to Hegelian philosophy in order to approach Capital,
because it is written in the framework of Hegelian Logic. But
Hegel’s Elements of the Philosophy of Right, for instance, has its own his-
torical limit: it was an attempt to ground, from the vantage point of
exchange and contract, the trinity of Capital-Nation-State when the
capitalist economy came to organize the greater part of modern
Western society, namely, the trinity was completed ( ϭthe end of
history in a sense) therein. Within such a historicity, Hegel saw the
market economy (civil society) as a system of wants. That is to say, he
could not see the market economy as formed by a perverted drive of
capitalism. In this sense, he was within the same confinement as the
classical economists. Meanwhile, Marx’s insight was that the capital-
ist economy is a system of illusion, that it is driven by the movement
M-C-M’, and that at its fountainhead is the drive to accumulate
money (qua the right to exchange-ability)—in distinction from the
wants and desire to achieve wealth. To achieve this objective, he re-
turned to “value form.” Therefore, Capital’s similarity to the Hegelian
system should not confuse us.
After writing Grundrisse, Marx commented in retrospect on his
own doctoral dissertation in a letter to Ferdinand Lassalle:
During this time of tribulation I carefully perused your Heraclitus. Your re-
construction of the system from the scattered fragments I regard as bril-
liant, nor was I any less impressed by the perspicacity of your polemic. . . . I
am all the more aware of the difficulties you had to surmount in this work
in that about 18 years ago I myself attempted a similar work on a far easier
philosopher, Epicurus—namely the portrayal of a complete system from frag-
ments, a system which I am convinced, by the by, was—as with Heraclitus—
only implicitly present in his work, not consciously as a system. Even in the
case of philosophers who give systematic form to their work, Spinoza for in-
stance, the true inner structure of the system is quite unlike the form in
which it was conciously presented by him.
But, arrestingly, the same mechanism can be observed in Marx’s
own work. The true inner structure of the system in Capital is “quite
unlike the form in which it was consciously presented by him.”
Here exists the very moment when the transcendental critique of
reason-capital intervenes. Capital should be read as such.
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One of the most acclaimed impressions about Capital is that it is
historical and at the same time logical. But rather this proves it to be
neither. The history that Capital grasps is distinct from the history
that historical materialism grasps. Marx’s objective, unlike that of
Engels and others, did not exist in explaining the historical whole
via the so-called economic infrastructure. What he sought to grasp
was history insofar as it is organized by the monetary economy. He
discovered thus that the capitalist market economy transformed the
whole world, and that the source of its power was the self-reproductive
drive of capital (the fetishism of money). History in this sense is logi-
cal, because it is that which is organized by the economic category.
But at the same time, the economic category in Capital never does
logically self-realize like the Hegelian concept; its development is al-
ways preceded by real historical events. Before dealing with indus-
trial capitalism, Marx gives a long positivist reflection on “primitive
accumulation.” The transformation from merchant capital to indus-
trial capital is formally that from M-C-MЈ to M-{mp ϩL}-MЈ. But for
this to happen, the separation between the means of production
(mp) and the laborer (L), namely, the commodification of labor-
power, must have taken place. This transformation, once seen as an
economic category, appears to be quite smooth and clear, neverthe-
less for this ‘formal development’ to occur (or to be grasped as occur-
ring), the real historical process has to be taken into consideration as
a sine qua non.
Marx never belittled the historical/contingent given, except that
he employed the category of the capitalist economy as that which of-
fers form to the contents (the givens). Only to this extent can it be
said that he brackets the givens. The real capitalist economy primar-
ily exists encompassed within states; it is states that frame the com-
modity economy; but the commodity economy coexists along with
various productions and classes that are not formally subsumed in its
category. Marx brackets noncapitalist production as well as state in-
tervention, namely, he treats them as if they were already internal-
ized, because they ultimately have to follow the principles of the
capitalist economy; because the capitalist economy has the potency
to constantly involve its externality and turn it into its internal given.
Such is the autonomous potency of the capitalist economy. And it is
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never identifiable as ‘infrastructure’. Marx’s lifelong assignment was
to shed light on the secret of this potency.
4.4 The Micro Difference
There have been many disputes over assessments of early and late
Marx. One was a tendency to appreciate the alienation theory of
early Marx as opposed to the economic determinism of later Marx.
Counter to this, Althusser stressed the epistemological break that oc-
curred in the period of The German Ideology. There is an important
aspect of Marx that both of the tendencies overlooked, that is, the
critique of Marx, or Marx as a critic. As I have been pointing out,
Marx’s thought could not have been formed if not for the incessant
transpositions and turns. And it is wrong to induce some essential
‘philosophy’ out of it.
In his doctoral dissertation, “Difference between the Democritean
and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature in General,” written before his
“Economic and Philosophical Manuscript,” Marx had already pre-
sented his critical (and more crucially, transcritical) stance. In this,
Marx sees the difference between Democritus and Epicurus in terms
of their “philosophies of nature.” It is commonsense that there are
large differences in their philosophies; yet in their philosophies of
nature they were very similar. Epicurus modified Democritus’ me-
chanical determinism by introducing the concept of the swerve of
the atom away from the straight line. This had been considered as a
diversion, rather than a serious development. Marx, on the other
hand, sought to prove that the difference between their philosophi-
cal systems derived precisely from this micro difference. The
uniqueness of Marx’s method in his dissertation lies in that it speaks
of the difference between Democritus and Epicurus in their almost
identical philosophies of nature rather than the whole of their
Indeed, on the one hand it is an old and entrenched prejudice to identify
Democritean and Epicurean physics, so that Epicurus’ modifications are
seen as only arbitrary vagaries. On the other hand I am forced to go into
what seem to be microscopic examinations as far as details are concerned.
But precisely because this prejudice is as old as the history of philosophy,
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because the differences are so concealed that they can be discovered as it
were only with a microscope, it will be all the more important if, despite the
interdependence of Democritean and Epicurean physics, an essential dif-
ference extending to the smallest details can be demonstrated. What can be
demonstrated in the small can even more easily be shown where the
relations are considered in larger dimensions, while conversely very general
considerations leave doubt whether the result will hold when applied to
Marx intended to break down the prejudice—“as old as the history
of philosophy”—that determined Epicurus’ modifications as “arbi-
trary vagaries”; or more to the point, he challenged the topos of
identification itself that erased their differences. A similar method
might be observed in our reading of his own Capital. When writing
the book, Marx inherited so many thoughts from classical econom-
ics that neoclassical economists customarily regard Capital as a varia-
tion of Ricardo’s work. This claim is not totally incorrect as far as his
work up until Grundrisse is concerned. But Capital renders an ele-
ment radically different from before. The theory of value form in
the opening of Capital is initiated by Marx’s serious consideration of
Bailey’s critique of Ricardo’s labor theory of value. Hence Capital
should be read not only in its difference from Ricardo but also from
Bailey, the true (yet often unacknowledged) originator of neoclassi-
cal economics. This interstice between them was one of the most
significant stages for Marx’s transcritique.
When contrasting Democritus and Epicurus, Marx was also keep-
ing in mind another philosopher, Aristotle. On one pole Marx
placed Democritus, who was a sensationalist, mechanical determin-
ist, and also a skeptic as a result, while on the opposite pole he
posited Aristotle, a teleologist and rationalist. The intermundia was
traversed by Epicurus, a proto-transcritic insisting upon the “swerve”
or “declination [clinamen]” of the atom.
According to Marx, it is
this declination of the atom that renders a transmutation (or devel-
opment) that is beyond being just mechanistic. (But this came to be
grasped by Aristotle teleologically from the standpoint of predeter-
mined harmony). For Marx, Epicurus is thus the one who criticizes
both teleology and mechanical determinism by way of gazing into
the swerve of the atomic movement.
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Transposition and Critique
In the age when dissertations had to be written strictly about the
classics, it was only natural that contemporary problematic concerns
were superimposed therein. There is no doubt that Marx was really
problematizing his contemporary materialism and idealism. More-
over, his Epicurus is reminiscent of Kant, who criticized both Hume
and Leibnitz from their intermundia. In this phase Marx was Kantian
par excellence.
But this was not because Marx consciously followed
Kant. Rather the opposite. It was his own engagement that brought
him close to Kant. (Although Marx was literally Kantian in his early
study of the philosophy of law, I am not alluding to this correspon-
dence.) It was because Marx himself lived transcritique. One observes
the same gaze in his “Preface to the First Edition” of Capital:
The value-form, whose fully developed shape is the money-form, is very sim-
ple and slight in content. Nevertheless, the human mind has sought in vain
for more than 2,000 years to get to the bottom of it, while on the other
hand there has been at least an approximation to a successful analysis of
forms which are much richer in content and more complex. Why? Because
the complete body is easier to study than its cells. Moreover, in the analysis
of economic forms neither microscopes nor chemical reagents are of assis-
tance. The power of abstraction must replace both. But for bourgeois soci-
ety, the commodity-form of the product of labor, or the value-form of the
commodity, is the economic cell-form. To the superficial observer, the
analysis of these forms seems to turn upon minutiae. It does in fact deal
with minutiae, but so similarly does microscopic anatomy.
What distinguishes Capital from previous work lies in the introduc-
tion of the microscopic view vis-à-vis the theory of value-form. This
had not existed in Grundrisse of the 1850s or in A Contribution to the
Critique of Political Economy of the early 1860s. One should read the
micro difference between Capital and these previous works, because
“[w]hat can be demonstrated in the small can even more easily be
shown where the relations are considered in larger dimensions.”
The conviction that Marx’s important break occurred only once has
made us overlook how crucial this shift was.
Here is another example concerning the movement of Marx’s think-
ing, written in 1843, before Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts:
In investigating a situation concerning the state one is all too easily tempted
to overlook the objective nature of the circumstances and to explain everything
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by the will of the persons concerned. However, there are circumstances
which determine the actions of private persons and individual authorities,
and which are as independent of them as the method of breathing. If from
the outset we adopt this objective standpoint, we shall not assume good or
evil will, exclusively on one side or the other, but we shall see the effect of
circumstances where at first glance only individuals seem to be acting. Once
it is proved that a phenomenon is made necessary by circumstances, it will no
longer be difficult to ascertain the external circumstances in which it must
actually be produced and those in which it could not be produced, al-
though the need for it already existed. This can be established with approx-
imately the same certainty with which the chemist determines the external
conditions under which substances having affinity are bound to form a
This position already prefigures the preface to Capital, where Marx
explains his intention to regard both capitalist and landowner as
“personifications” of economic categories, and thus not to question
their subjective will and moral responsibility. Herein his “natural his-
torical standpoint” is clearly present, and it is totally irrelevant to the
‘influence of Feuerbach’ and the ‘residue of Hegelian thought’—no
matter how crucial they were to Marx. But what I want to say is not that
Marx was consistent from early on. To the contrary, I believe, Marx’s
thinking should be read in reference to the “micro differences” within
similarities and proximities.
Finally, Capital is undoubtedly the most important achievement of
Marx’s lifelong work, but one should not consider it his ‘ultimate
position’. This is not merely because the book is unfinished, but
more important because Marx persisted in criticizing dominant dis-
courses within systems, from an external footing, constantly transposing
and turning. Yet the external position is not something that exists
substantively. This footing is the difference or the interstice between
discourses which abrogates any standpoint. What is crucial here is
Marx’s transcritical footwork that opposes historical heterogeneity
to idealism, while counterposing the autonomous power of category
that constitutes reality to empiricism. This prompt transposition ulti-
mately exceeds any selfsame system of thought that can be attrib-
uted to him (and because what he says is often inverted according to
contexts, one can induce any thought one likes from him). It is
counterproductive to look for a doctrine in his work; his thought
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Transposition and Critique
and practice lie in his transcritique. Finally, Marx was less a scholar
of philosophy and political economy than a journalistic critic.
4.5 Marx and Anarchists
Another aspect of Marx’s ambiguity is his relation with the three
anarchists: Bakunin, Proudhon, and Stirner. Bakunin incisively
branded Marx as an authoritarian and dictatorial thinker, which be-
came an established reputation among later anarchists. By contrast,
Marxists formulated Marx as a thinker who entirely negated anar-
chism. But both overlooked the “subtle difference” in the Marxian
critique of anarchism. For instance, Bakunin attacked Marx along
with Lassallians. “That was Lassalle’s program, and it is also the pro-
gram of the Social-Democratic Party. Strictly speaking, it belongs not
to Lassalle but to Marx, who expressed it fully in the famous Manifesto
of the Communist Party, which he and Engels published in 1848 . . . Is it
not clear that Lassalle’s program is in no way different from that of
Marx, whom he acknowledged as his teacher?”
It must have been a
big misunderstanding, if not outright slander; Bakunin ignores the
deployment of Marx’s thought during the 1860s and 1870s.
Marx was critical of the idea (i.e., of Lassalle’s Gotha Programme)
to have the state protect and foster cooperative production. Marx was
clear: “That the workers desire to establish the conditions for co-
operative production on a social scale, and first of all on a national
scale, in their own country, only means that they are working to
transform the present conditions of production, and it has nothing
in common with the foundation of co-operative societies with state
aid. But as far as the present co-operative societies are concerned,
they are of value only insofar as they are the independent creations of
the workers and not protégés either of the government or of the
In other words, Marx is stressing that the association of
cooperatives itself must take place of the state, instead of state-led co-
operative movements, whereby capital and state are to wither away.
And this kind of proposition of principle aside, Marx never said
anything in particular about future prospects. Marx extolled
the Paris Commune mainly achieved by Proudhonists, and found in
it “possible communism”: “If united co-operative societies are to
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regulate national production upon a common plan, thus taking it under
their own control, and putting an end to the constant anarchy and peri-
odical convulsions which are the fatality of Capitalist production—what
else, gentlemen, would it be but Communism, ‘possible’ Commu-
This sort of association must be fundamentally different
both from a traditional community and a state-centrist organization.
It must correspond to what Marx called “the social,” that is, the form
in which those who have once gotten out of communities are re-
assembled on a different level. In this sense, communism is a project
in attempt to shift the social relation that is formed as a result of capi-
tal’s accumulative movement into the association of free and equal pro-
ducers, and furthermore, into a global association of associations. In
the third volume of Capital, Marx highly evaluated cooperatives side
by side with stock company. He saw stock companies as “the abolition
of capital as private property within the confines of the capitalist
mode of production itself.”
This is because stock companies abol-
ished the previous integrity of capitalists by the separation of capital
and management. Yet this is only a passive abolition of the capitalist
system. The positive abolition (sublation) is discovered by Marx in
the producers’ cooperative of which stockholders are workers them-
selves. In this context, Marx spoke of a new phase of “individual
property” as opposed to “private property.”
The capitalist mode of appropriation, which springs from the capitalist
mode of production, produces capitalist private property. This is the first
negation of individual private property, as founded on the labor of its pro-
prietor. But capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a natural
process, its own negation. This is the negation of negation. It does not re-
establish private property, but it does indeed establish individual property
on the basis of the achievements of the capitalist era: namely, co-operation
and the possession in common of the land and the means of production
produced by labor itself.
What does this distinction between “private property” and “individ-
ual property” mean? Precisely because modern private ownership
was that which was awarded by the absolutist state in exchange for
paying taxes, private ownership is equal to state ownership. So it is a
total fallacy to abolish private property by means of state ownership.
The abolition of private property must be an abolition of the state
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Transposition and Critique
itself. To Marx, communism came to signify the establishment of a new
kind of individual property, and this was because he considered commu-
nism as being equal to an association of producers’ cooperatives.
Such a view is obviously based upon Proudhon, whose book
Qu’est-ce que la propriété? that young Marx praised, is famous for its
unhesitant vocation, “la propriété, c’est le vol.” Yet Proudhon did
not deny property in general. What he denied was earning income
without working. So he distinguished between possession and prop-
erty, and insisted on abolishing property. He believed that this revi-
sion would change every aspect of social institutions: law, politics,
and economy.
In addition, he never identified unearned profit with feudal plun-
dering. What he calls unearned profit is rather intrinsic to the capi-
talist mode of production. For instance, each individual worker is
paid wages for their work, but not for their joint work or increased
production by their “collective power,” which goes to the capitalist.
Adam Smith regarded this as a legitimate source of profit, but
Proudhon regarded it as theft. Meanwhile, the Left Ricardians in
Britain had called it the exploitation of surplus value. While it moti-
vated a vehement political labor movement there, in France Proudhon
was rather against political activity, advocating workers partnerships
where there could no longer be “theft,” at the same time as advocat-
ing a rise in productivity by cooperative work. He believed that the
expansion of such an ethico-economic exchange system would re-
place capital and the state.
In this light, it turns out that Marx never abandoned the basic
ideas he had learned from Proudhon since his youth. What he
called “individual property” in contrast to private property is no
other than what Proudhon called “possession.” Marx did criticize
Proudhon, but their relation should not be viewed from the later
opposition between Marxism and Anarchism, since between them
was an intricate mutual reciprocity. In order to understand this situ-
ation, we should take into consideration the fissure between discur-
sive systems in Britain, France, and Germany, and actual societies
therein (precisely as Marx presented in The German Ideology).
In the nineteenth century, the labor movement and cooperatives
began in Britain; this under the influence of the Left Ricardians,
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who drew the idea of surplus value from Ricardo’s labor value
theory long before Proudhon drew the idea of “profit-theft” from
Smith: exemplary works include Thomas Hodgskin’s Political
Economy (1827), and William Thompson’s An Inquiry into the Principles
of the Distribution of Wealth (1824). These led to the Chartist movement.
Another reason Proudhon believed it possible to dissolve capital and
the state through workers’ association without workers’ political strug-
gle was that, in 1830s France, industrial capitalism was underdeveloped
and there were very few industrial workers. Saint-Simonism, which was
then predominant, advocated development of industry and redistribu-
tion of wealth to the workers: It was the precursor of corporatism. In
fact, the large industrial revolution in France took place at the time
of Louis Bonaparte, a Saint-Simonist, by whom the socialists were
coopted. In contrast, Proudhon was unswervingly opposed to such
state-socialism. It was just like the way Marx had objected to Lasserl’s
state socialism, which conformed to Bismarck’s state capitalism.
Meanwhile, there was neither industrial capitalism nor socialist
movement in the Germany of the 1830s. They existed only as ideas, to
the extent that an introductory book by Lorenz von Stein, Socialism
and Communism in France Today,
had a large influence. Left Hegelians
were, in a word, little more than a movement of those philosophers
who were impacted by French socialism and communism. The
movement appeared most importantly and crucially as a critique of
Hegel. Hegelian philosophy was a dominant state ideology, and
furthermore, Hegel himself was well informed about classical eco-
nomics and even criticized it philosophically in his system, with the
stance that the state qua reason would transcend the contradiction
and disruption caused by the civil society as the system of wants.
All Left Hegelians, headed by Feuerbach, assumed the critical
stance against Hegel. Feuerbach called himself a communist, seek-
ing to practice the German philosophical interpretation of French
communism. However, other young philosophers, motivated by
him, began to extend the Feuerbachian critique to the sociopolitical
sphere. For instance, Marx criticized Hegel’s Philosophy of Right by
applying the Feuerbachian critique of Christianity. Feuerbach
asserted that man, a sensual being, had alienated its own species’
being (communal essence) in the phantasm of God and should
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Transposition and Critique
retrieve it. Likewise, Marx considered that human beings are species-
essential beings only in the political state (parliamentary democracy)
qua communal fantasy, while in civil society (the social state), they ac-
tually pursue their own interests, resulting in inequality and repres-
sion. He considered this gap as self-alienation. But, to abandon such
a fantasy and realize the communal being in reality, we would have
to change the civil society and abandon the capitalist economy.
What should be stressed here is the fact that Marx did not agree with
the idea of abolishing the capitalist economy by way of the state. It
derived from Hegel’s position which then, in later times, grounded
state capitalism as well as state socialism. Meanwhile, Marx’s goal was
to abolish the political state itself, and for this purpose precisely, it
was necessary to recompose the civil society taken over by the capi-
talist economy into a social state. This was basically the same as the
anarchist idea, which Marx never left behind. Around this time,
however, Marx did not have any concrete or practical scope toward
the realization; his thinking was still revolving around the concept of
species’ being, and did not necessarily exceed Feuerbach philosoph-
ically. It is not surprising that, for Max Stirner, Marx up to this point
appeared to be a follower of Feuerbach. Furthermore, Marx was at
the time an admirer of Proudhon.
Without considering this context, we would not understand why
Stirner (in The Ego and Its Own) criticized not only Feuerbach but
also Proudhon. Stirner claimed that what Feuerbach called Man was
a version in disguise of God or Spirit, where this myself (deicitic) was
fatally missing. He made a similar remark on Proudhon.
So Feuerbach instructs us that, ‘if one only inverts speculative philosophy,
always makes the predicate the subject, and so makes the subject the object,
and principle, one has the undraped truth, pure and clean’. With this, to be
sure, we lost the narrow religious standpoint, lost the God, who from this
standpoint is subject; but we take in exchange for it the other side of reli-
gious standpoint, the moral standpoint. Thus we no longer say ‘God is
love’, but ‘love is divine’.
Piety has for a century received so many blows, and had to hear its superhu-
man essence reviled as an ‘inhuman’ one so often, that one cannot feel
6715 CH04 UG 1/29/03 7:52 PM Page 169
tempted to draw the sword against it again. And yet it has almost always been
only moral opponents that have appeared in the arena, to assail the
supreme essence in favor of—another supreme essence. So Proudhon, un-
abashed, says: ‘Man is destined to live without religion, but the moral law (la
loi moral ) is eternal and absolute. Who would dare today to attack morality?’
Stirner maintains that in Proudhon the state is negated, but only to
be replaced by society, the general, where this I is disregarded, while
the I—qua a member of the society only—is acknowledged. He
termed this I as “my own,” which sounds like “my property,” a set-
back. However, it should be noted that this was strictly uttered as his
response to Proudhon’s What Is Property? In fact, it has nothing to do
with “property:” “‘freedom’ is and remains a longing, a romantic
plaint, a Christian hope for unearthliness and futurity; ‘ownness’ is a
reality, which of itself removes just so much unfreedom as by barring
your own way hinders you. . . . The own man (der Eigene) is the free-
born, the man free to begin with; the free man, on the contrary, is
only the eleutheromantic, the dreamer and enthusiast.”
That is to
say that to Stirner freedom is not something to be owned. Elsewhere
he calls it “nothingness.” What he calls uniqueness signifies a mere
singularity, the fact that each one is oneself in one’s own way, and
not a particular talent as such.
Stirner claims he is an egoist. At the same time, he insists that so-
called egoists are not egoists sensu stricto, because they are possessed
by their desires and interests, that is to say, they are not their own.
Therefore, it is not contradictory for him to seek the association,
while maintaining egoism. He would rather say that only egoists can
form associations and that associations should be as such. Stirner
sensed the smell of the ‘church’ and ‘community’ in Proudhon’s as-
sociation, and he denied the morals imposed by the church, commu-
nity or state; with this critical bias, he proposed the new ethics. He
argues that, so far, individuals have been acknowledged only as mem-
bers of the same family, the same ethnic group, the same nation, the
same human species; that is, individuals have been acknowledged
only via the higher being, but never simply as themselves.
Only for the sake of a higher essence has any one been honored from of
old, only as a ghost has he been regarded in the light of a hollowed, a pro-
tected and recognized person. If I cherish you because I hold you dear,
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Transposition and Critique
because in you my heart finds nourishment, my need satisfaction, then it is
not done for the sake of a higher essence whose hallowed body you are, not
on account of my beholding in you a ghost, an appearing spirit, but from
egoistic pleasure; you yourself with your essence are valuable to me, for your
essence is not a higher one, is not higher and more general than you, is
unique [einzig] like you yourself, because it is you.
Stirner came up with the kind of ethics that treats other individuals
who are actually in front of us as free humans, without the media-
tion by any higher being such as family, community, ethnicity, state,
or society.
This ethics leads to the egoists’ association—his socialism.
Otherwise, socialism would result in the predominance of the soci-
ety over individuals. Thus Stirner criticized Proudhon’s association
as the community that subordinates individuals. Nevertheless,
Proudhon was different from the kind of communism that Stirner
criticized. He denied the association in this sense. It should be said
that his socialism was rather an egoists’ association, as is clear in his
later work, The Principle of Federation. “The social contract par excel-
lence is a federal contract, which define as follows: a bilateral and
commutative contract concerning one or more specific objects, hav-
ing as its necessary condition that the contracting parties retain more
sovereignty and a greater scope of action than they give up.”
Yet, at
that point of time in the 1840s, it had not yet been clear to him.
Meanwhile, the significance that Stirner’s critique of Feuerbach
had in Germany was more philosophical. Indeed, young Hegelians
reversed Hegel’s idealism, but they never doubted Hegelian think-
ing that saw the individual as a member of a category of higher
being. Rejecting the substantiation of the general notion (qua
Geist), they yet posited it as being internalized within the individual.
In this manner, the higher being (qua the general) remained. In
contrast, Stirner regarded the individual as real, and the general no-
tion as a specter. This sounds pretty much like the nominalist asser-
tion that only the individual is the substance, while the general is a
mere notion. But it is different. In fact, he refuted not only realism
but also nominalism. How, then, is his stance different from that of
nominalism? In this respect, Stirner’s “my own (property)” is sugges-
tive. For instance, nominalists saw the individuality of the individual
in the proper name, namely, property. Nonetheless, the proper
6715 CH04 UG 1/29/03 7:52 PM Page 171
name exceeds the logic of individual genus (individuality-generality).
The problematization of the proper name goes beyond individual-
ity-generality, and unequivocally touches the dimension of singular-
ity-universality (qua sociality). All in all, it was not only that Stirner
posited the individual as the only substance, but furthermore, that
he refused to think of the individual in terms of individualgenus (gen-
erality). Therefore, when he grasped the ego as singularity, it could
result in the association of egoists.
“You bring into a union (associ-
ation) your whole power, your competence, and power; in a society
you are employed, with your working power; in the former you live
egoistically, in the latter humanly, that is, religiously, as a member in
the body of this Lord.”
It is well known that Marx mockingly criticized Stirner in The
German Ideology, but the book was not published contemporaneously.
Stirner was rapidly forgotten, not due to Marx’s criticism, but be-
cause of the revolution in 1848. When Stirner was reevaluated in
the late nineteenth century, Marx’s criticism of Stirner also drew
attention. However, since it was read within the scheme of Marxist-
Anarchist opposition, the relationship between the two was not suffi-
ciently considered. It is apparent that Stirner’s critique of Feuerbach
played a decisive role in Marx’s getting out of the enclosure of
Hegelian discourse. In fact, it brought Marx what Althusser called
the “epistemological break.” Marx wrote in 1845 after Ego and
Its Own came out: “Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into
the essence of man. But the essence of man is no abstraction inher-
ent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the
social relations.”
This ‘man’ is what Stirner called a specter. Marx wrote with Engels
as if responding to Stirner: “The premises from which we begin are
not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which ab-
straction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real in-
dividuals, their activity and the material conditions of their life, both
those which they find already existing and those produced by their
Now Marx starts with individuals, located in the social re-
lations. We are located in multiple relations such as gender, family,
class, ethnicity, and nationality, which often contradict each other.
For example, I am a parent to my child, and a child to my parent.
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Transposition and Critique
I am a teacher and a student. I employ others and am employed by
others, and so on. The essence of me, namely, what I am is defined
only by the ensemble of those relations, while the imaginary notion
such as man qua essence effaces those relations. Yet, at the same
time, I am an existence that is different from the essence deter-
mined by those social relations. My existence is, after all, nothing,
in the sense that it owns no positive contents.
However, it is this
nothingness—owning nothing—that enables us to dissent the given
relatedness. That was what Stirner called my ownness.
Should I still oppose Marx to Stirner?
If I do, I too fall into the
problematic of Marxism vs. existentialism. I should do otherwise,
that is, see something that passed from Stirner to Marx. What counts
here is to see that just as Stirner took up the absoluteness of this
(deictic) I by bracketing all the relations, Marx took up the absolute-
ness of the relations that cannot be effaced by one’s will or one’s
idea, particularly the idea of Man. Marx persisted in this recognition
in Capital, that is, his thoroughgoing natural historical viewpoint
that sees individuals as located in the terms of relational structures.
Marx criticized Stirner in The German Ideology (1847) and Proudhon
in The Poverty of Philosophy (1848). But this chronological order tends
to overlook the fact that both Stirner and Marx learned from and
targeted Proudhon. Like other young Hegelians, Marx had been ap-
proaching and criticizing British economics by way of Proudhon’s
socialism. When Marx wrote The Poverty of Philosophy, Proudhon was
rather negative toward the idea of political revolution wherein the
working class seizes power, and he contended that the expansion
of a free associative exchange system—say, producers’ cooperatives
and exchange banks without interest—would replace the state and
capitalist economy. Marx argued that so long as classes and class
opposition last, it is impossible to reduce politics to economy; the
liberation of the working class should be made through political rev-
olution. However, one cannot understand the whole of Proudhon
and Marx’s relation from considerations of this period alone. Before
long their positions came, in a way, to be reversed. In 1848,
Proudhon participated in the political revolution. In the meantime,
after 1848, Marx began to find hope in the noncapitalist cooperative
production in Britain, where workers’ political movements (the
6715 CH04 UG 1/29/03 7:52 PM Page 173
Chartist movement et al.) reached their peak in 1848 and turned
One should not distinguish these two directions as political revo-
lution and social revolution, as has been done. I propose reconsider-
ing and redefining them as the struggle remaining within the
capitalist economy and the struggle that seeks to ex-scendent the
capitalist economy. They are both indispensable to the abolition of
the capitalist economy, and we have to see how they can relate to
each other. For this purpose, it is necessary to elucidate the capitalist
economy theoretically. It is clear that Proudhon did not have this
problematic consciousness, but neither did Marx at that point.
Marx was not negative of Proudhon’s associationism; but he rec-
ognized that it could only be a partial and complementary move-
ment under the strain of capital and state. Proudhon took the
capitalist economy too lightly. Following the labor theory of value,
English classical economics grasped money only as a means of desig-
nating labor value. In a similar way, Proudhon took money lightly
and had the naïve objective of abolishing money and creating an or-
ganization of mutual exchange with the spirit of give and take by es-
tablishing a currency without interest. In The Poverty of Philosophy,
Marx began to appreciate the bourgeois economist Ricardo, of
whom he had been negative under the influence of Proudhon. The
book expresses Marx’s appreciation of Ricardo’s project of analyzing
the system of the capitalist economy by the labor theory of value.
Ricardo shows us the real movement of bourgeois production, which consti-
tutes value. M. Proudhon, leaving this real movement out of account,
“fumes and frets” in order to invent new processes and to achieve the reor-
ganization of the world on a would-be new formula, which formula is no
more than the theoretical expression of the real movement which exists
and which is so well described by Ricardo. Ricardo takes present-day society
as his starting point to demonstrate to us how it constitutes value—
M. Proudhon takes constituted value as his starting point to constitute a
new social world with the aid of this value. . . . The determination of value
by labor time is, for Ricardo, the law of exchange value; for M. Proudhon, it
is the synthesis of use value and exchange value. Ricardo’s theory of values
is the scientific interpretation of actual economic like; M. Proudhon’s the-
ory of values is the Utopian interpretation of Ricardo’s theory. Ricardo
establishes the truth of his formula by deriving it from all economic relations,
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Transposition and Critique
and by explaining in this way all phenomena, even those like rent, accumu-
lation of capital and the relation of wages to profits, which at first sight
seem to contradict it.
Marx is not necessarily upgrading Ricardo by degrading Proudhon.
It just occurred to him that, in order to overcome the capitalist econ-
omy, it was necessary to grasp it as a system first. In this sense, The
Poverty of Philosophy initiates Marx’s path to Capital. To Marx, Proudhon
was blind to the dynamic force of capitalism that incessantly trans-
forms social relations, because he took for granted the “free individ-
uals” as such who were themselves products of the capitalist market
economy. For instance, Proudhon’s concepts of the “masses” or
“people” do not involve socioeconomic relations. After having been
exiled to Belgium in 1858, Proudhon published The Principle of Feder-
ation (in 1863) in order to criticize the former socialists who were
falling into nationalism and centralism. Although this work pointed
out the antinomy between authority and liberty, it failed to under-
stand why people supported the Emperor Bonaparte. Proudhon saw
it as the nature of people themselves.
The organization of liberal or democratic government is more complicated
and more sophisticated, its practice more laborious and less dramatic than
that of monarchical government; consequently, it is less popular. Almost al-
ways the masses have regarded forms of free government as aristocratic,
and they have preferred absolute monarchy. Hence that vicious circle in
which progressives are trapped, and which will trap them still for many
years to come. Naturally, it is in order to improve the lot of the masses that
republicans demand liberties and securities; it is, therefore, upon the peo-
ple that they must rely. But it is always the people who, through their dis-
trust of or indifference to democratic forms, stand in the way of liberty.
In this there is a recognition that Bakunin could not have had. Yet it
is rather odd that, after Marx’s intricate analysis of the social rela-
tions and the parliamentary system in The Eighteenth Brumaire, Prou-
dhon ascribed the whole issue to the nature of people. He is
explaining the reason why Bonaparte became the Emperor merely
by the inclination of people to love authority. When Proudhon pub-
lished this, Marx was writing the corpus that was later edited and
published as the third volume of Capital, striving to understand why
the capital and state endure so tenaciously. Nevertheless, this does
6715 CH04 UG 1/29/03 7:52 PM Page 175
not mean in the least that Marx denied Proudhon’s associationism.
This does not mean that Proudhon’s ideas of cooperative and ex-
change bank were obsolete. At the same time he approved these
ideas, or precisely because of his approval, Marx criticized Proud-
hon. Marx’s critique stressed the point in his “Instructions for Dele-
gates to the Geneva Congress”:
It is the business of the International Working Men’s Association to com-
bine and generalize the spontaneous movements of the working classes, but
not to indicate or impose any doctrinaire system whatever. The Congress
should, therefore, proclaim no special system of cooperation, but limit itself
to the enunciation of a few general principles.
(a) We are acknowledged the cooperative movement as one of the trans-
forming forces of the present society based upon class antagonism. Its great
merit is to practically show, that the present pauperizing and despotic sys-
tem of the subordination of labor to capital can be superseded by the re-
publican and beneficent system of the association of free and equal producers.
(b) Restricted, however, to the dwarfish forms into which individual wage
slaves can elaborate it by their private efforts, the cooperative system will
never transform capitalistic society. To convert social production into one
large and harmonious system of free and cooperative labor, general social
changes are wanted, changes of the general conditions of society, never to be real-
ized save by the transfer of the organized forces of society, viz., the state
power, from capitalists and landlords to the producers themselves.
(c) We recommend to the working men to embark in cooperative produc-
tion rather than in cooperative stores. The latter touch but the surface of the
present economical system, the former attacks its groundwork.
(d) We recommend to all cooperative societies to convert one part of
their joint income into a fund for propagating their principles by examples
as well as by precept, in other words, by promoting the establishment of
new cooperative fabrics, as well as by teaching and preaching.
(e) In order to prevent cooperative societies from degenerating into or-
dinary middle-class joint-stock companies (société par actions), all workmen
employed, whether shareholders or not, ought to share alike. As a mere
temporary expedient, we are willing to allow shareholders a low rate of
Marxists who have believed that the first step toward communism is
the planned, state-owned economy have neglected both producers’
cooperatives (or cooperative production) and consumers’ coopera-
tives (or cooperative stores). Originally conceptualized by Utopians
since Robert Owen, cooperative movements gained popularity in
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Transposition and Critique
the 1860s in England after innumerable setbacks. Not only did Marx
never deny them, but he saw “possible communism” in the association
of free and equal producers. At the same time, Marx pointed out the
limit of the cooperative movements; they are constantly placed in se-
vere competition with capital. Their options would be either to re-
main partially in the area of production where capitalist mode is
hardly developed, to become a stock company itself, or to be de-
feated in the competition and go bankrupt. Therefore, “to convert
social production into one large and harmonious system of free and
cooperative labor, general social changes are wanted, changes of the
general conditions of society, never to be realized save by the transfer of
the organized forces of society, namely, the state power, from capi-
talists and landlords to the producers themselves.”
Needless to say, as is clear in his critique of Lassalle, it is not to fos-
ter cooperative societies with state aid. To transfer state power to the
producers does not mean that they seize it, but that they abolish it.
“Association of associations” should take the place of the state.
As I mentioned before, Bakunin thought that Lassalle’s idea de-
rived from Marx. But nothing is so alien to Marx than resorting to
state power, as Lassalle did. Nonetheless, Marx was also different
from Bakunin in the very aspect that Marx assumed a center for inte-
grating the multiple associations, while refusing the center of the
state power. Is it his authoritarianism? According to Proudhon, anar-
chism is not anarchic (chaotic), but orderly: it is still a sort of govern-
ment. While acknowledging that the phrase “anarchic government”
involves a kind of contradiction and sounds absurd, Proudhon in-
sists that anarchy is a form of government, that is, self-government
or autonomy. Also he defined anarchism as the idea of reducing po-
litical functions to industrial functions; and that a social order arises
that forms nothing but transactions and exchanges.
In this light,
Marx’s idea of converting social production into one large and har-
monious system of free and cooperative labor is not contradictory to
Proudhon’s idea; it has nothing to do with state control.
It is worth noting that Proudhon regarded authority and liberty as
not merely contradictory but as antinomy. Which means that
the two opposite propositions are valid; the thesis is: there ought to be
the center. The antithesis is: there ought not to be a center. For instance,
6715 CH04 UG 1/29/03 7:52 PM Page 177
anarchists defy any authority, but if this stance only brings about
chaos, it would end up helping authority to reassert itself. Proudhon
believed he found the principle to overcome this antinomy in the as-
sociation (he called it “federation” in his late years). “It [the idea of
federation] resolves all the problems posed by the need to reconcile
liberty and authority. Thanks to this idea we need no longer fear
being overwhelmed by the antinomies of rule.”
It would be a new
system that solves the antinomy of freedom and authority.
Earlier in the same book he said:
To balance two forces (authority and liberty) is to submit them to a law
which, obliging each to respect the other brings them into agreement.
What will supply us with this new element, superior to both authority and
liberty, and acquiring pre-eminence with the consent of both?—the con-
tract, whose terms establish right, and bear equally upon two contending
Therefore, when Marx criticized Bakunin, he did it not as an author-
itarian. Rather he took the antinomy that Proudhon pointed out
much more seriously than Bakunin did. What is more, Marx praised
the Paris Commune, carried out mainly by Proudhonists, in which
he found the vision of “possible communism.” Marx was seeking a
method of achieving the liberty that neither falls into chaos nor into
state authority.
Marx’s manuscript for the third volume of Capital reads as follows:
Wird gesagt, daß nicht allgemeine Ueberproduction, sondern Dispropor-
tion innerhalb der verschiednen Produktionszweige stattfinde, so heißt das
weiter nichts als daß innerhalb der kapitalistischen Productionszweige die
Proportionalität darstelt, indem hier der Zusammenhang der Produktion
als blindes Gasetz auf die Productionsagenten wirkt, sie nicht als assozierter
Verstand ihn ihrer gemeinsamen Controlle unterworfen haben.
This translates to the following:
If it is said that there is no general overproduction, but simply a dispropor-
tion between the different branches of production, this again means noth-
ing more than that, within capitalist production, the proportionality of the
particular branches of production presents itself as a process of passing
constantly out of and into disproportionality, since here the interconnec-
tion of production as a whole functions on the agents of production as
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Transposition and Critique
a blind law, and they do not bring the productive process under their
common control as their associated understanding [assozierter Verstand].
As Japanese philosopher Minoru Tabata pointed out, Engels made
an alteration to the passage while editing Capital:
Wird gesagt, daß nicht allegemeine Überproduktion, sondern Dispropor-
tion innerhalb der verscheidnen Produktionszweige stattfinde, so heißt dies
weiter nichts, als daß innerhalb der kapitalistischen Produktion die Propor-
tionalität der einzelnen Produktionszweige sich als beständiger Prozeß aus
der Disproportionalität darstellt, indem hier der Zusammenhang der
gesamten Produktion als blindes Gesetz den Productionsagenten sich
aufzwingt, nicht als von ihrem assozüerten Verstand begriffners und damit
beherrschtes Gesetz den Produktionsprozeß ihrer gemeinsamen Kontrolle
unterworfen hat.
This is the same as the version available in English today:
If it is said that there is no general overproduction, but simply a dispropor-
tion between the various branches of production, this again means nothing
more than that, within capitalist production, the proportionality of the par-
ticular branches of production presents itself as a process of passing con-
stantly out of and into disproportionality, since the interconnection of
production as a whole here forces itself on the agents of production as a
blind law, and not as a law which, being grasped and therefore mastered by
their combined reason [assozierter Verstand], brings the productive process
under their common control.
Engel’s interpolation is almost criminal. With his insistence on the
“law,” he shifted Marx’s regulative idea to the constitutive idea of
the Kantian problematic. Obviously, Engels’s position is that rule by
the cognition of objective law is equal to freedom. In this context,
assozierter Verstand is no more than Hegelian reason, that is, “com-
bined reason.” This inexorably leads to the faith that party-state
bureaucrats-reason control economic process. Therefore we can say
that from Engels sprang the idea of communism qua state centrism.
In contrast, Marx never suggested that assozierter Verstand be estab-
lished in one decisive coup.
“They [the working class] know that
the superseding of the economical conditions of the slavery of labor
by the conditions of free and associated labor can only be the pro-
gressive work of time.”
6715 CH04 UG 1/29/03 7:52 PM Page 179
The term assozierter Verstand sounds rather strange. There is an
issue of translation: whether it be translated as “associated under-
standing” (in the Kantian manner) or “combined reason” (in the
Hegelian manner). The first case is understandable when compared
with, for example, Habermas’s attempt to reinterpret reason as pub-
lic consensus by communication. But it involves more intricate and
significant issues.
The fact that Marx intentionally used the terms of classical German
philosophy here shows that the problematic is linked to the past
philosophical problems concerning sensuality and reason, or empiri-
cism and rationalism. For instance, ‘association’ in the theory of polit-
ical organization could be likened to Hume’s concept of association
of ideas—the source of Hume’s skeptical conclusion that there is no
self-same, consistent, single ego. This might be the model of organiza-
tion totally without a center. Counter to this account, Kant claimed
that although there is no substantial ego as Descartes claimed, still ex-
isting is the “transcendental apperception X” that integrates the mani-
fold associations. Kant stood critically in between Descartes and
Hume. If we can apply it to the theory of political organization, state
centrism is likened to the rule by Cartesian subject, while anarchism
assumes Hume-ian “association” that defies all identical substance;
and the function of Kantian transcendental apperception corre-
sponds to Marx’s “associated understanding” [assozierter Verstand].
Marx’s idea, association has something like the transcendental apper-
ception X—that which should not be considered as a substantial cen-
ter, like state or party. In this sense, standing in between archism
(Lassalle) and anarchism (Bakunin), Marx sought to transcriticize
both at the same time. It is for this reason that Marx sometimes ap-
pears to be anarchist and sometimes archist; this ambiguity or even
ambivalence should not be forced into a synthesis, for it is in this con-
stant shift that Marx’s transcritique lives. And this must be something
that would solve the antinomy of freedom and authority.
An anarchist such as Bakunin denies all power and center.
idea takes for granted the tacit assumption that the masses liberated
from oppression create an autonomous order by free association.
But, as Proudhon warned, it would not happen that way. Such a
process would rather invite a more muscular power. Furthermore,
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Transposition and Critique
there is no guarantee that differences between individual abilities
and the love of power would disappear in free associations. Instead,
we should first assume that these would inexorably remain, and con-
ceptualize a system where these would not found a static power and
class system. Marx did not write about this. But when he highly appre-
ciated the Paris Commune realized by the leadership of Proudhonists,
he saw a step toward a possible communism.
This was consistent
with his earlier thinking.
Early Marx began his critical intervention with the critique of
Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. What he grasped therein were the separa-
tions between civil society and political state, private person and pub-
lic person, that occurred in the modern state. There, while individuals
are treated equally as public persons, they belong to the class relation
of production intrinsic to the capitalist economy. Individuals as public
persons can have only legislative rights or the right to vote, but they
have no administrative rights whatsoever. The so-called people’s sov-
ereignty is real only in that they can vote. Look at the so-called democ-
ratic nation-states; there is no democracy whatsoever in companies
and governmental offices. Marx thought that, by changing civil society
(social state), it would be possible to abolish the political state. From a
more concrete viewpoint, it is by establishing a system where the social
state is never alienated by the political state, where a static power sys-
tem is never congealed out of the social state (qua commune). What
Marx discerned in Paris Commune was a concrete form of this, which
he called the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
On the other hand, Lenin’s concept of the “dictatorship of the
proletariat” resulted in the dictatorship of reason-party, the dictator-
ship of a bureaucratic system. Consequently, today’s Marxists seem
to swerve away from, ignore, discard, or deny the concept of the dic-
tatorship of the proletariat. But if this new tendency of Marxism re-
sults in the parliamentary democracy and is satisfied by certain
reformations within it, it is futile. One may not need to cling to such
a misleading concept as ‘dictatorship’ any longer, yet one should not
forget that historical failure contains crucial lessons. Marx’s “dictator-
ship of the proletariat” is, needless to say, the conceptual opposite of
the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie,” which signifies the parliamen-
tary democracy. Historically speaking, the parliamentary democracy
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that came into existence by overthrowing the absolutist monarchy is
the quintessential form of bourgeois dictatorship. So it is that a
Marxian proletariat dictatorship would not assume anything similar
to the form of rules extant before the bourgeois dictatorship: feudal
dictatorship or absolutist dictatorship. The bourgeois state invented
devices by means of which to prevent the recurrence of dictatorship:
the separation of legal, administrative, and judicial powers and the
secret ballot. The separation, however, is only nominal. It is just the
‘principle’ advocated in order to make sense of the duality of civil
society and political state. In contrast, the dictatorship of the prole-
tariat is, far from the dictatorship of anything, that which aims at the
abolition (sublation) of state power itself. Thus it should be super-
sensitive to the fixation of any power structure.
The Paris Commune assumed both a legislative organ and an ad-
ministrative organ; in this sense, it was the sublation of the duality—
civil society/political state—generic in the modern state. But even in
such a social state where the division/duality of public persons and
private persons was sublated, the separation of legal, administrative,
and judicial powers remained. In order to support the participatory
democracy persistently, it had to be sensitive to the separation of
three powers (in a different sense from that of Montesquieu). The
Paris Commune had these three departments of power. That is, it also
had the representative and bureaucratic systems. It had the institution
to elect and ostracize judicial and administrative officers. But would
this extent be sufficient to prevent all possible fixation of legal, admin-
istrative, and judicial powers, namely, bureaucratization? As Max
Weber said in his Politik als Beruf (1919), the bureaucratic system is in-
evitable and necessary in those societies where the division of labor is
developed; and it cannot be discarded simplemindedly. Accordingly,
we have to admit that even association necessitates representative and
bureaucratic systems, and that the difference of individual abilities
and the will to power remains. Except that we should prevent them
from resulting in any fixation of the power system.
There is one crucial thing we can learn from Athenian democracy
in this respect. The ancient democracy was established by overthrow-
ing tyranny and equipped itself with a meticulous device for prevent-
ing tyranny from reviving. The salient characteristic of Athenian
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Transposition and Critique
democracy is not a direct participation of everyone in the assembly, as
always claimed, but a systematic control of the administrative power.
The crux was the system of lottery: to elect public servants by lottery
and to surveil the deeds of public servants by means of a group of
jurors who are also elected by lottery. Interestingly, Perikles, who exe-
cuted political reformation implementing this idea, later fell from
power by the same system. My point is that the core of the system in-
vented to stop the fixation of power in Athenian Democracy lay not
in the election itself, but in the lottery. Lottery functions to introduce
contingency into the magnetic power center. The point is to shake up
the positions where power tends to be concentrated; entrenchment
of power in administrative positions can be avoided by a sudden at-
tack of contingency. It is only the lottery that actualizes the separation
of the three powers. If universal suffrage by secret ballot, namely, par-
liamentary democracy, is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the in-
troduction of a lottery should be deemed the dictatorship of the
proletariat. The association of associations or assozierter Verstand inex-
orably entails a center; yet the center is constantly replaced by the
contingency; the centrality of the center is displaced in this manner.
The center exists and does not exist at the same time. That is to say, it is the
concrete form of the Kantian transcendental apperception X.
Proudhon learned much from Athenian democracy, but he criti-
cized the bourgeois system of universal suffrage, referring to it as
“just like a lottery.” Notwithstanding the derogatory nuances at-
tached to the term lottery, lottery is not in the least obstructive to
the electoral system, but a sine qua non to maximize its function. In
any kind of representative vote—even of a commune—the represen-
tative and the represented are split in fixation. The same group of
people are always chosen, and factional strife transpires. Can we
choose all representatives by lottery in all elections? That is not real-
istic; the system itself would be too arbitrary to gain the trust of the
people. In Athens, the generals were not elected by lottery, but they
were replaced every day; thereby a fixation of power was avoided.
Speaking of the use of lottery in institutions today, it is used only
for posts anyone can do, but no one wants to do, such as jurors. In
other words, lottery is used only in the case where the candidates’
abilities are equal or do not matter. For us, the point of using it is
6715 CH04 UG 1/29/03 7:52 PM Page 183
the opposite. We would use it in order to save the elections from
corruption and choose relatively talented leaders.
Considering these examples, what is preferable to us would be to
choose the most crucial post by lottery: namely, first choosing three
candidates by secret vote (three in one choice) and then finally
electing one by lottery. Because the last and most crucial stage is de-
termined by contingency, factional disputes or conflicts over succes-
sors would not make sense. As a result, a relatively superior, if not
the best, representative would take up the post. Furthermore, the
one who is chosen could not parade his or her superiority and
power, while those who are not chosen have no reason to refuse col-
laboration. This kind of political technique would be functional and
would go beyond the cliché, “all the power will fall.” Employed in
such manner, the lottery would be an ideal method to free the
power center from fixation in the long run and choose able man-
agers and leaders when necessary. To repeat, we should not assume
that the human nature of loving power ever changes, or that the dif-
ference and heterogeneity of individual abilities ever disappears.
Even in the production systems or cooperatives managed by work-
ers, these elements are sustained. Especially when the extracapitalist
production systems have to compete with capitalist enterprises, they
are forced either to adopt the organizational principle of corpora-
tions for the sake of improving production or lose and disappear.
Our ideal organization should assume the existence of hierarchy
from the beginning, except that it introduces the election and lot-
tery to escape the stagnation of the power structure.
Organization for any counteraction against state and capitalism
must introduce within itself the device of introducing contingency in
the magnetic power center. If not, it will be like the thing it intends
to counter. But unfortunately, as a point of fact, various civil acts that
have begun to negate power-centralist hierarchical organization
remain scattered and have yet to gather themselves for a collective
intervention. They tend to offer the most reliable source of votes for
relatively progressive parties. They are incapable of executing real
counteractions to capital and state. Meanwhile, if and only if we in-
troduce the political technique outlined earlier will we not have to
fear the dangers of centralization.
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The Crisis of Synthesis
5.1 The Form of Value qua Synthetic Judgment: Ex Ante Facto
and Ex Post Facto
Capital is a book of political economy. So it is that the majority of
Marxists tacitly swerved their attention to other writings in order to
find Marx’s philosophy or political ideas. In other words, they
sought to interpret Capital by way of the philosophy found else-
where. I am not necessarily of the opinion that Marx’s non-Capital
work can be ignored; yet still I insist that Marx’s philosophy as well
as his idea of revolution should be found in Capital.
Generally speaking, political economy is a science that cannot ac-
knowledge the being of enigma in human exchange (economic activ-
ity). It takes for granted that the economic activity is sachlich and clear,
though there may be bizarre and complex enigmas, outside, in other
domains. Political economists rather believe that they can elucidate
these enigmas by relying on the objective knowledge of the political
economy. On the other hand, there is no human activity that is not an
exchange (communication). The state, nation, and even religion are
forms of exchange. In this sense, it is possible to see all human activi-
ties as economic. Seen in this way, the domain of political economy is
not necessarily more simple, practical, and objective than others. The
world of political economy, the world organized by money or credit is,
precisely like the world organized by gods and faith, totally phantas-
magoric, yet powerful in its ability to bind and trample our beings.
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Classical economists had sought to approach the issue of com-
modity’s value from the vantage point of labor; they had seen money
merely as the index of labor-value. To them there was no enigma of
money. Based upon the experience of observing the newly appeared
industrial capitalism, they had been inclined to defy the previous
forms of capital: merchant capital and interest-bearing capital.
Then, Marx intervened; he sought to reconsider capital from the
vantage point of merchant capital and interest-bearing capital. He
presented the accumulation of capital using the formula M-C-MЈ.
Marx especially paid attention to interest-bearing capital, that is, the
“antideluvian form of capital.”
We have seen how merchant’s capital and interest-bearing capital are the
oldest forms of capital. But it lies in the very nature of the matter that inter-
est-bearing capital should appear to the popular mind as the form of capital
par excellence. In merchant’s capital we have a mediating activity, whether
this is considered as fraud, labor or whatever. In interest-bearing capital, on
the other hand, the self-reproducing character of capital, self-valorizing
value, the production of surplus-value, appears as a purely occult quality.
The retrospection to “the oldest form of capital” is not due to any
historical concern. It derived from his keen awareness that the for-
mula of merchant capital and interest-bearing capital was presently
at work, and transforming the world. He returned to the old form,
precisely because it was imperative to disclose the notion of the
‘market economy’ as an ideology of industrial capital, he did this by
a retrospection.
The formula [M-MЈ] itself expresses that the money is not spent here as
money, but is only advanced, and is thus simply the money form of capital,
money capital. It further expresses the fact that it is the exchange-value, not
the use-value, that is the decisive inherent purpose of the movement. It is
precisely because the money form of value is its independent and palpable
form of appearance that the circulation form M . . . MЈ, which starts and fin-
ishes with actual money, expresses money-making, the driving motive of
capitalist production, most palpably. The production process appears sim-
ply as an unavoidable middle term, a necessary evil for the purpose of
money-making. (This explains why all nations characterized by the capital-
ist mode of production are periodically seized by fits of giddiness in which
they try to accomplish the money-making without the mediation of the
production process.)
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The Crisis of Synthesis
Therefore, the domain of economic activity cannot be limited to the
exchange of products and services among people.
The young Marx shifted his problematic from the critique of reli-
gion to the critique of political economy. And in Capital, he discov-
ered that the economic world was the ultimate religious world:
“A commodity appears at the first sight an extremely obvious, trivial
thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing,
abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.”
That is to say that in the simple commodity lurks the essential prob-
lem of metaphysics and theology.
By way of speaking of the eco-
nomic problematic, the Marx of Capital was actually wrestling with
the issues of metaphysics and theology more than any other work.
Adam Smith maintained that commodity consisted of use-value
and exchange-value. But for such a synthesis to be established, first
of all the commodity must be exchanged with another commodity
(an equivalent). Smith obviously thought of commodity in an ex
post facto manner. For him, exchange value is equal to purchasing
power, namely, money-power, or, in other words, every commodity
is already and tacitly money, and currency is just a denominator of
the value. And the exchange value is determined by the amount of
labor-time expended on the production. Smith and Ricardo both
erased money, as it were, by first considering it as inherent in each
commodity. This is isomorphic to the humanism (of Feuerbach, for
instance) that denies God by first internalizing God (qua common
species-being) in the individual.
Like classical economists, Marx, too, claimed that commodity was
use-value and value at the same time; the difference was that he
grasped it as a synthesis that might happen in the future. He saw it
ex ante facto. Seen in this way, there is no guarantee as to whether
the synthesis is realized. What does this difference—to see ex post
facto and ex ante facto—really mean? We should scrutinize this by
returning to Kant.
In Critique of Judgment, Kant distinguishes “determinative judg-
ments,” which categorize concrete individual facts by established
laws, from “reflective judgments,” which pursue a new universality
that subsumes the exceptional facts that are not yet categorized by
established laws. The difficulty of synthetic judgment is obviously
6715 CH05 UG 1/29/03 7:55 PM Page 187
concerned with the latter. The assumption that reflective judgment
proceed smoothly is only made possible by “doctrinal faiths [doktri-
nalen Glauben].” But once verified by some way, a reflective judg-
ment turns into a determinative judgment. Here it is possible to see
the distinction between reflective and determinative as analogous to
that between ex ante facto and ex post facto. For instance, Critique of
Pure Reason presents an ex post facto inquiry into transcendental
conditions upon which synthetic judgments are established, tenta-
tively assuming that they have already been established. This defi-
nitely takes an ex post facto position. Nevertheless, this is not to say
that synthetic judgments can easily be established. Synthetic judg-
ments are essentially speculative, containing a certain leap, and it is
precisely because of this risk and ungroundedness that they are ex-
pansive. On the other hand, Kant acknowledges a difficulty in syn-
thetic judgments when he sees things from an ex ante facto stance,
as it were. It is not too much exaggeration to say that Kant sought
to think in the ex ante facto stance, except for his transcendental
Seen from this perspective, it is obvious that Leibnitz spoke from
an ex post facto stance when he considered proposition of fact as an-
alytic proposition, that is, “crossed the Rubicon” is contained in the
subject Caesar. The same is true of Hegel when he insisted on “be-
coming of essence as a result [Wirkung].” Hegel dismissed Kant’s dis-
tinction between phenomenon and thing-in-itself, claiming that it
was just the distinction between “already-recognized” and “not-yet-
recognized.” The absolute spirit qua the absolute after-the-fact-ness
(or the end) allowed him to omit the thing-in-itself. In this manner,
every becoming is realized teleologically as a self-realization of the
Spirit. To Kant, metaphysics and speculative philosophy meant all at-
tempts to prove what could be constituted only as synthetic judgment
by way of analytic judgment. But this critique can be applied, in prin-
ciple, to all ex post facto thought. If so, it might be said, metaphy-
sics is all thought that projects what was already achieved as a result
(or ex post facto) onto future (or ex ante facto) events. Hence
Nietzsche’s critique of metaphysics took the form of a genealogy: a
belated scrutinity as to how an ex post facto recognition is formed as
a perversion of perspective. But Kant’s transcendental critique had
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The Crisis of Synthesis
already been genealogical in the sense that it sought to reveal that
the points of departure of empiricists and rationalists—sensibility
and concepts—were already and always end-results of the mediation
by certain ‘symbolic forms’ (Cassirer).
Now we have Kierkegaard and Marx as the most radical critics of
Hegelian ex post facto synthesis. In their respective contexts, both
stressed the salto mortale as apodictically contained in synthetic judg-
ments. Kierkegaard said that speculation is backward-looking, while
ethics is forward-looking. The former is ex post facto, while the lat-
ter is ex ante facto. To Kierkegaard, acknowledging Jesus as Christ is
equal to the synthetic judgment, “a man called Jesus is God.” For
Hegel, Jesus-as-Christ was proven by the historical fact that Christian-
ity expanded, while Kierkegaard questioned whether we could know
it “contemporaneously,” namely, ex ante facto. It is only the faith as
salto mortale that allows us see the man Jesus appearing “in all of his
lowliness” as God.
Kierkegaard saw man as a synthesis of finity (sensibility) and infin-
ity (understanding). But whether or not the synthesis is established
cannot be determined by the ego-self; this requires the intervention
of the other (qua Christ). That is to say that in order to realize the
ego as a synthesis, the salto mortale is sine qua non. Kierkegaard
called this synthesis the “qualitative dialectic.” And what I want to say
here is that the same critical dialectic is found in Capital, though
Marx is often considered to be antagonistic to Kierkegaard. Marx’s
dialectic is not a materialist version of the Hegelian dialectic, as con-
sistently claimed, but a qualitative dialectic, which consciously in-
volves the critical fissure (qua crisis) of synthetic judgment (qua
capital). The approaches of Kierkegaard and Marx point to a univer-
sal problematic—beyond differences of domains, namely, religion,
art, political economy—concerning after-the-fact-ness and before-
the-fact-ness in synthetic judgment.
Considering commodity to be use-value and value assumes a synthe-
sis of sensuous and suprasensuous, finite and infinite; and the synthe-
sis is not possible if not for a leap. Herein Marx saw an antinomy.
All commodities are non-use-values for their owners, and use-values for their
non-owners. Consequently, they must all change hands. But changing of
hands constitutes their exchange, and their exchange puts them in relation
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with each other as values and realizes them as values. Hence commodities
must be realized as values before they can be realized as use-values.
On the other hand, they must stand the test as use-values before they can
be realized as values. For the labor expended on them only counts in so far
as it is expended in a form which is useful for others. However, only the act
of exchange can prove whether that labor is useful for others, and its prod-
uct consequently capable of satisfying the needs of others.
Elsewhere, Marx said: “C-M. First metamorphosis of the commodity, or
sale. The leap taken by value from the body of the commodity into
the body of gold is the commodity’s salto mortale, as I have called it
elsewhere. If the leap falls short, it is not the commodity which is de-
frauded but rather its owner.”
In the strict sense, the unsold and
discarded commodity is defrauded, too. Whether or not the com-
modity is valuable is determined only after the salto mortale of the ex-
change. The commodity that is not sold is entrapped in the form of
“wanting in despair to be oneself” or in “sickness unto death” from
Kierkegaard. Commodity may be seen as a synthesis of use-value and
exchange-value only inasmuch as seen from the ex post facto stance,
while such a synthesis does not exist ex ante facto. The value of a
commodity can come into existence only after it is exchanged with
another commodity, an equivalent.
What Marx sought to grasp as “value form” is the situation in
which a commodity can attain value only by being exchanged by an-
other commodity. This is to say that Marx attached importance to
use-value. Since classical economics started from the result of com-
modities already being placed in equivalency, it did not have to
worry about the phase in which whether a commodity has use-value
(utility) or not to others is crucial. Taking for granted the equiva-
lence, it posited the expended labor as the common essence in-
cluded in every commodity. Seen from the ex ante facto stance, on
the other hand, no matter how much labor is expended on produc-
tion, a commodity’s use-value to others has to be questioned. Reject-
ing Smith and Ricardo’s labor theory of value as metaphysics,
neoclassical economists premised the perspective of utility for buy-
ers. For them, Marx was just an epigone of classical economics. In a
reverse of their understanding, however, Marx, of Capital in particu-
lar, started from the point that a commodity has to have use-value to
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The Crisis of Synthesis
others in order for it to have value. “Finally, nothing can be a value
without being an object of utility. If the thing is useless, so is the labor
contained in it; the labor does not count as labor, and therefore cre-
ates no value.”
Since before Capital, Marx had criticized various aspects of classi-
cal economics. For instance, taking the idea that the substance of
value is labor time, Marx had stressed that it is social labor time. In
other words, he was well aware that it was realized only by the regula-
tions of exchange via money. But classical economics, too, had seen
labor-value from the vantage point of social equilibrium; and Marx’s
stress of social characteristics had not really been an overcoming of
it. It could be said that the pre-Capital Marx had sought to explain
the monetary economy, taking for granted the social division of
labor—the very result of the organization of the monetary economy.
This after the fact inquiry was basically the same as that of classical
economics. He had not thought much as to why the exchange of
commodities had to be done via money. Marx had assumed that the
“social characteristic” of labor realizes itself via money, rather than
the reverse.
Or finally let us take communal labor in its naturally evolved form as we
find it among all civilized nations at the dawn of their history. In this case
the social character of labor is evidently not mediated by the labor of the in-
dividual assuming the abstract form of universal labor or his product assum-
ing the form of a universal equivalent. The communal system on which
[this mode of] production is based prevents the labor of an individual from
becoming private labor and his product the private product of a separate
individual; it causes individual labor to appear rather as the direct function
of a member of the social organization. Labor which manifests itself in ex-
change value appears to be the labor of an isolated individual. It becomes
social labor by assuming the form of its direct opposite, of abstract universal
Lastly, it is a characteristic feature of labor which posits exchange
value that it causes the social relations of individuals to appear in the per-
verted form of a social relation between things. The labor of different per-
sons is equated and treated as universal labor only by bringing one use
value into relation with another one in the guise of exchange value.
Although it is thus correct to say that exchange value is a relation between
persons, it is however necessary to add that it is a relation hidden by a mate-
rial veil.
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Marx made the point that the social relations of individuals appear in
a perverted form of a social relation between things—this is known as
alienation theory. Lukács later attached primary importance to this
and raised it to the thesis of “reification.” But, in fact it is based upon
the same concept as Marx’s earlier alienation theory. They both take
the form of projecting what is discovered ex post facto as ex ante
facto. From an ex post facto stance, the social division of labor formed
by the commodity economy looks precisely the same as the division of
labor formed in an enclosed space of community or factory. While the
division of labor in the latter (community) is consciously organized
and transparently apprehensible, the way humans and their labors are
interconnected in the former (society) is unknowable.
Suppose I buy a melon with the royalties I earn from writing this
book. The melon is perhaps grown by a farmer in Florida. He can
never know that his labor is placed in equivalency with my labor.
Furthermore, between the farmer and me lies capital. If we can de-
tect a division of labor between us, it would be only from an ex post
facto position, from which everything becomes transparent.
Certainly Capital, too, contains this ex post facto view. Yet Marx
opposes the idea that different commodities become equivalent be-
cause they contain the same amount of labor.
Men do not therefore bring the products of their labor into relation with
each other as values because they see these objects merely as the material
integuments of homogeneous human labor. The reverse is true: by equat-
ing their different products to each other in exchange as values, they
equate their different kinds of labor as human labor. They do this without
being aware of it. Value, therefore, does not have its description branded
on its forehead; it rather transforms every product of labor into a social hi-
eroglyphic. Later on, men try to decipher the hieroglyphic, to get behind
the secret of their own social product: for the characteristic which objects of
utility have of being values is as much men’s social product as is their lan-
guage. The belated scientific discovery that the products of labor, in so far
as they are values, are merely the material expressions of the human labor
expended to produce them, marks an epoch in the history of mankind’s de-
velopment, but by no means banishes the semblance of objectivity pos-
sessed by the social characteristics of labor.
Only after being posited in equivalency can commodities attain a
common essence, and not vice versa. Abstract labor or social labor
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The Crisis of Synthesis
time is discovered only ex post facto by the exchange (placing in
equivalency). Therefore, “social relation” should be defined as an
unconscious relation. Marx never denied the labor theory of value,
because it is correct from an ex post facto stance, and because labor
value was actually imposed upon all products via prices by money,
beginning in the stage of industrial capitalism.
In reality, world economic competition is taking place over the
shortening of labor time for production or productivity of labor.
Which does not mean, however, that the vantage point of labor
value explains the enigma of the capitalist economy: The labor the-
ory of value has forgotten money, that is, it has forgotten capitalism.
5.2 The Form of Value
What distinguishes Capital from previous economic works such as A
Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy or Grundrisse is the appear-
ance of the theory of value form. “It is one of the chief failings of classi-
cal political economy that it has never succeeded, by means of its
analysis of commodities, and in particular of their value, in discovering
the form of value which in fact turns value into exchange-value. Even
its best representatives, Adam Smith and David Ricardo, treat the form
of value as something of indifference, something external to the na-
ture of the commodity itself.”
This is true of the pre-Capital Marx him-
self, who was, even if radically critical, within the frame of Ricardian
thought. But, then, there was a radical “epistemological break”—much
more than that in The German Ideology, as Althusser claimed—between
Grundrisse and Capital, which was rendered by the theory of value form.
We have to take its significance into deep consideration.
What inspired Marx to analyze value form was Samuel Bailey’s cri-
tique of Ricardo. To Ricardo, all commodities have immanent values
determined by expended labor; in this case, money is gold and its
value is determined by the labor time expended for its production.
Bailey disagreed and insisted that the value of a commodity is ex-
pressed only relatively by the use-value of another commodity, and
that there is no absolute measure of value beyond the relation.
Value denotes consequently nothing positive or intrinsic, but merely the rela-
tion in which two objects stand to each other as exchangeable commodities. . . .
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In the circumstance, that it denotes a relation between two objects, but
merely the relation in which two objects stand to each other as exchange-
able commodities. . . .
It is from this circumstance of constant reference to other commodities,
or to money, when we are speaking of the relation between any two com-
modities, that the notion of value, as something intrinsic and absolute, has
While Ricardo maintained that every commodity contains value
(qua labor time) within, Bailey insisted that the value of a commod-
ity exists only in its relation with other commodities: thus it is only
customary. Marx’s theory of value form was formed transcritically
between these poles.
To Bailey, values of things are little more than their relationship
with other things (including gold); there is no immanent value sub-
stance. Values of things produce a chain of relations, either without
a center or with innumerable centers. In reality, the incessant fluctu-
ation of value proves the inherent centerlessness. Ricardo also saw
the difficulty of the labor input theory of value therein. In fact, in
the beginning of the section on value form in Capital, Marx, too, de-
ployed an account of the fluctuation of the labor time necessary for
production and its influence over relative value form.
The point
being that, if the value of a commodity were determined merely by
its value relation with all other commodities, the whole system would
be affected by the change of a single item.
Bailey’s comment on the subject is especially crucial: “Value is a
relation between contemporary commodities, because such only
admit of being exchanged for each other; and if we compare the
value of a commodity at one time with its value at another, it is only
a comparison of the relation in which it stood at these different
times to some other commodity.”
That is to say that commodities
form a synchronic system of relation, as it were. But Bailey over-
looked a simple fact—that commodities cannot be exchanged directly. All
commodities are mutually interrelated, but only mediated by money
qua the general equivalent. Ricardo considered labor-value substan-
tial and money secondary, while tacitly relying upon the being of
money. In a similar way, Bailey tacitly took money’s being for
granted: his synchronic system is organized by the very money that is
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The Crisis of Synthesis
a zero sign or a repressed center. Nonetheless he made little of
money, because he identifies money with gold.
But, this presents a
formal and logical problem vis-à-vis money: even if money can be gold,
gold cannot be money. One cannot exchange a commodity directly
with gold. First, we have to change it to money, and then buy gold.
Then, what makes gold money? Or why can commodities not be di-
rectly exchanged with each other? This is precisely what Marx ques-
tioned in his theory of value form.
The difference between Ricardo and Bailey might be identified as
that between dogmatism (or rationalism) and skepticism (or empiri-
cism). Indeed Bailey is like Hume (aside from Hume’s own theory of
political economy). As Kant’s dogmatic slumber was interrupted, so
was Marx, who had been dependent upon Ricardo’s theory of value
substance-input labor, shaken by Bailey’s skeptical approach. There-
fore, Marx’s Copernican turn in Capital is isomorphic to the Kantian
turn provoked by Hume’s subversive skepticism. In between object
(qua use-value) and value, Marx discovered the form of value which
makes them what they are, from which they derive. Kant, on the one
hand, rejected rationalism as metaphysics, and on the other hand,
pointed out to Hume that the sense data, his point of departure, was
already a product of the mediation by the form of sensibility. Hence
Kant discovered “symbolic form”—in the term of Ernst Cassirer—in
between sensibility and concept, the unmediated points of departure
for previous philosophers. Such is transcendental reflection. And
precisely in the same manner, Marx extracted value form, the very
magic that makes products and commodities money.
As I have said earlier, Hume dismissed the Cartesian ego cogito
and posed plural egos instead. Then Kant intervened, rebuking the
Cartesian ego as illusion; with respect to Hume’s thesis, he criticized
it, pointing to the function of transcendental apperception X on the
basis of the plural egos. The stance to consider the X as some empir-
ical substance is metaphysics, but we can hardly escape from the
drive to consider the X as substance. In this sense, it is more correct
to say that ego is not just an illusion but a transcendental illusion.
The point here is that money is something like that. According to
Ricardo, commodities contain exchange-value in themselves, and it
is money that is the denominator. That is to say, for him, money is
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just an illusion. Based upon this idea, both Ricardian leftists and
Proudhon proposed the labor money and exchange bank as alterna-
tives. Criticizing this position, however, Marx was still within the con-
finement of the labor theory of value. Then suddenly he was
confronted by Bailey’s critique that claimed that the value of a com-
modity exists nowhere but in its relationship with other commodi-
ties. Therefore the labor-value claimed to be internalized in
commodities is just an illusion and thereafter, Marx’s theory of value
was forged to be transcendental.
It was only after the relational system of commodities was synthe-
sized by money and each commodity was given value that classical
economics was able to consider each commodity as internalizing
labor-value. For his part, Bailey insisted that there existed only val-
ues qua commodity relations; however, his thought neglected to
question what is money that prices them. This was the same as hav-
ing overlooked the agent that composes the system of commodities,
namely, money as the general equivalent form in Marx’s term.
Money in this sense is precisely like a transcendental apperception
X, in contrast to the substantial aspect of money such as gold or sil-
ver. To take it substantially is, to Marx, fetishism. Money as fetish is
an illusion. But, in the sense that it is the kind of illusion that is hard
to eliminate, it is a transcendental illusion.
For the mercantilists and monetary system that preceded classical
economics, money was a ‘special thing’. Marx called it the fetish of
money. Classical economics scorned it and posed labor as an alter-
native value substance, yet they left the fetishism of money intact.
The auto-reproductive movement of capital (M-C-MЈ) itself is the
product of the fetish of money. Both Ricardo, the pioneer of labor
theory of value, and his critic, Bailey (the unacknowledged founder
of the neoclassical school), just covered up money on the surface. At
times of crises, as Marx said, people rush to money, turning back to
the monetary system. Thus, the Marx of Capital traced a trajectory
back to mercantilism passing Ricardo and Bailey. And by criticizing
both of his predecessors, Marx revealed the form—the transcenden-
tal form—that constitutes the commodity economy.
For Marx, what makes a certain thing—namely, gold—money is
not precisely its material nature. Gold becomes money only because
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The Crisis of Synthesis
it is posited in a certain form—the “general equivalent form.” In this
sense, it does not have to be gold. What Marx discovered was the
form that makes objects money. In the same way, what makes objects
commodity is the commodity form. Classical economists did not dis-
tinguish commodities from objects in general. They believed that
objects in and of themselves had value, and it was here that Marx in-
serted his break, stating that what makes objects commodity is the
commodity form.
To understand this, Marx’s formalist intervention, I refer to lan-
guage. In linguistics, the material voice/sound and the phoneme—
that which discriminates meaning—are distinguished. The phoneme
is already a form that renders signification. In the same sense, ob-
jects and the objects posited in the commodity form are different.
“The use-values of commodities provide the material for a special
branch of knowledge, namely the commercial knowledge of com-
modities. Use-values are only realized [verwirklicht] in use or in
consumption. They constitute the material content of wealth, what-
ever its social form may be. In the form of society to be considered
here they are also the material bearers [Träger] of . . . exchange-
In value form, the value of a commodity is expressed by the
use-value of another commodity. In this case, use-value should be
considered as a signifier rather than as just material function. It is a
material form for value. Lacking this differentiation, classical econo-
mists could not distinguish goods (and their production) from com-
modities (and their production). Missing this distinction is equal to
missing the distinction between production in the capitalist com-
modity economy and other kinds of social productions. To say it dif-
ferently, classical economics did not distinguish them because they
assumed that capitalist production would sooner or later prevail
against all other productions. And this assumption was wrong. The
capitalist commodity economy forms a worldwide system of the divi-
sion of labor, nevertheless it does not cover all kinds of production.
Instead this continues to give noncapitalist and noncommodity pro-
ductions a fictitious institution. This is expressed in Marx’s discourse:
“[a small peasant] is first of all considered as his own employer
(capitalist), employing himself as a worker, and his own landowner,
using himself as his own farmer. He pays himself wages as a
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worker, lays claim to profit as a capitalist and pays himself rent as a
The commodity economy is that which organizes objects and their
production within its fictitious institution, thus giving them com-
modity form. No matter how much it expands, those products and
productions that are not yet fully encompassed by it endure. In
other words, what we grasp as objects of the political economy are
never the “things-themselves” but only the “phenomena” that are
constituted by the commodity economy. The capitalist commodity
economy discovers its limit in those things that it cannot organize at
its disposal. As I relate later, these are the natural environment (that
agriculture seeks to organize), and human beings (the labor power
that industrial capital exploits as commodity).
Scrutinizing commodity form thus necessitates a transcendental
elucidation of the form that makes objects commodity and/or money.
In the “simple form of value,” the value of commodity A is expressed
by the use-value of commodity B. Therein commodity A is in the rela-
tive form of value, while commodity B is in the equivalent form. The
simple form of value is expressed in the following equation:
20 yards of linen ϭ1 coat
(relative form of value) (equivalent form)
Setting out from this premise, Marx logically describes the develop-
ment to the “expanded form of value,” to the “general equivalent
form of value” wherein one commodity exclusively stands in the
equivalent form of value while others are in the relative form of
value, and finally to “money form.” Although this description seems
like a Hegelian development, in fact it is the reverse: Marx discovers,
stage by stage, what is repressed by the more developed forms by way
of his transcendental-genealogical retrospection. In other words, he
discovers the enigma of money lurking behind the “simple form of
What the equation indicates is that twenty yards of linen cannot
express its value by itself; its value can be presented in its natural
form only after being posited in the equivalency with one coat. On
the other hand, one coat is in the position that it can always be ex-
changed with the former. It is the equivalent form that makes the
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The Crisis of Synthesis
coat seem as if it had exchange-value (direct exchangeability) in it-
self. “The equivalent form of a commodity, accordingly, is the form
in which it is directly exchangeable with other commodities.”
enigma of money is lurking behind the equivalent form. Marx called
it “fetishism of the commodity.”
But, this simple equation does not mean that the one coat is the
only, unequivocal, equivalent form. It is possible for twenty yards of
linen to be in the equivalent form as well.
Of course, the expression 20 yards of linen ϭ1 coat, or 20 yards of linen is
worth 1 coat, also includes its converse: 1 coat ϭ20 yards of linen, or 1 coat
is worth 20 yards of linen. But in this case I must reverse the equation, in
order to express the value of the coat relatively; and, if I do that, the linen
becomes the equivalent instead of the coat. The same commodity cannot,
therefore, simultaneously appear in both forms in the same expression of
value. These forms rather exclude each other as polar opposites.
Whether a commodity is in the relative form or in its opposite, the equiv-
alent form, entirely depends on its actual position in the expression of
value. That is, it depends on whether it is the commodity whose value is
being expressed, or the commodity in which value is expressed.
Thus it is strictly up to its position whether a thing is a commodity or
money. A thing can be money only because it is posited in the equiv-
alent form. And the thing can also be a commodity when posited in
the relative form of value. “The relative form of value and the equiv-
alent form are two inseparable moments, which belong to and mu-
tually condition each other; but, at the same time, they are mutually
exclusive or opposed extremes, that is, poles of the expression of
In the money form, gold or silver occupies the position of
the general equivalent form, while everything else is placed in the
relative form of value. In consequence:
[w]hat appears to happen is not that a particular commodity becomes
money because all other commodities express their values in it, but, on the
contrary, that all other commodities universally express their values in a
particular commodity because it is money. The movement through which
this process has been mediated vanishes in its own result, leaving no trace
behind. Without any initiative on their part, the commodities find their
own value-configuration ready to hand, in the form of a physical commod-
ity existing outside but also alongside them. This physical object, gold or sil-
ver in its crude state, becomes, immediately on its emergence from the
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bowels of the earth, the direct incarnation of all human labor. Hence the
magic of money.
To be certain, classical economists were free from the magic of money
that had haunted bullionists (the monetary system). Nonetheless, re-
garding money simply as secondary, as an external object, they ig-
nored the asymmetricity—between the equivalent form and the
relative form—inherent in the form of value. This was the same as
negating the difficulty inherent in exchange. Marx’s “simple form of
value” is not a historical departure from which money developed, but
an arché that is discovered only by the transcendental-genealogical ret-
rospection from the market economy—that which classical econo-
mists deemed self-evident.
5.3 Capital’s Drive
Marx’s theory of value form does not deal with the historical origin
of money. It is a transcendental (and retrospective) reflection upon
exchange mediated by money. Adam Smith famously posited the
origin of money in the barter system. In exchange via money, one
can certainly locate the exchanges of things at one end. This does
not mean however that the exchange of things develops into the
monetary economy. The exchange of things is made possible by
something totally different: the reciprocity of gift and return.
Adam Smith wrote as follows:
This division of labor, from which so many advantages are derived, is not
originally the effect of any human wisdom, which foresees and intends that
general opulence to which it gives occasion. It is the necessary, though very
slow and gradual, consequence of a certain propensity in human nature
which has in view no such extensive utility; the propensity to truck, barter,
and exchange one thing for another.
Whether this propensity be one of those original principles in human na-
ture of which no further account can be given; or whether, as seems more
probable, it be the necessary consequences of the faculties of reason and
speech, it belongs not to our present subject to inquire. It is common to
all men, and to be found in no other race of animals, which seem to know
neither this nor another species of contracts.
Marx cast doubt upon the premises assumed by the theories of origin.
(In Smith’s time, there were many reflections on origin—and of
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The Crisis of Synthesis
language in particular—by Rousseau and Herder, for instance).
Smith’s position on barter as the origin was itself a product of the capi-
talist market economy. Once the origin was identified as barter, money
was posited as secondary product. But the market economy is far knot-
tier than it looks: It is not just a place where things and services are ex-
changed via money; it is a place where the exchanges occur as capital’s
movement. Smith’s theory of origin covers up the peculiarity of the
capitalist market economy, namely, the asymmetry inherent in the ex-
change between commodity and money. The implication is that the
position of money form and the position of commodity form are not
symmetric; those who are in money form (the buyer) and those who
are in commodity form (the seller) are not symmetric. Those who
have money can buy things anytime they want, while those who have
commodities have to sell them as soon as possible before they depreci-
ate. Having money is far more advantageous. This becomes conspicu-
ous especially in the relationship between those who have only
labor-power commodity and those who buy it with money. This is a
free relationship based upon lawful contract, unlike feudal domina-
tion and subordination. Yet it is also a hierarchical relationship par ex-
cellence, based as it is upon the asymmetric relationship (form)
between commodity and money (capital). Speaking of the origin of
money, Smith gives the impression that the symmetry in the relation of
exchange is a permanent natural form (based upon human instinct).
On the contrary, by way of transcendental—and not empirical—retro-
spection, Marx discovered the form of value, namely, the asymmetric
relationship between the relative value form and the equivalent form.
This verifies that the exchange can never be symmetric.
After this, in the chapter, “The Process of Exchange,” Marx ap-
pears to give a historical account of the genesis of monetary ex-
change. There his stress is the intermundia, the space between
communities. “The exchange of commodities begins where commu-
nities have their boundaries, at their points of contact with other
communities, or with members of the latter. However, as soon as
products have become commodities in the external relations of a
community, they also, by reactions, become commodities in the in-
ternal life of the community.”
This discourse is, in the strict sense,
not dealing with an empirical problematic per se but the kind of
problematic that is grasped only by “the power of abstraction,” to
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use Marx’s term, because this is not something that came into exis-
tence at a certain time in a remote age, but something that is always
already and presently going on, and furthermore, because the impli-
cation of Marx’s “communities” is manifold, including many levels,
from the family, tribe, nation-state, and so on.
What is the implication of the statement that commodity ex-
change begins in between communities? First, this exchange is dif-
ferent from that which takes place within communities in the
common sense, which is mainly motivated by the principle of reci-
procity in gift and return. For instance, even in those nation-states
where the commodity economy is most advanced, within families
there is—if a division of labor—no commodity exchange. Within
families the functional exchange is the reciprocity of a gift called
love. Second, there is looting in disguise within a community, also
known as taxation and redistribution, which is yet different from the
violent form that occurs in contact between communities. Thus, in
precommodity economic situations, dominant within communities
were the relationships based on gifting and/or looting, while the
commodity economy took place only marginally.
Karl Polanyi made such a claim—that the reciprocity of gifting
and redistribution was dominant before the market economy took
hold—in his book The Great Transformation.
Here the point I would
like to stress is that redistribution is, from the beginning, a form of
plunder, or more to the point, an institution in order to plunder
continuously. Feudal lords ruled agrarian communities as they pil-
laged their products. They restricted the amount of robbing to a
level where peasants could survive; they also had to protect them
from external forces, and conduct public undertakings such as irri-
gation works. For this reason, the peasant’s obligation to pay the
land tax was represented as a return or duty. That is to say that plun-
der takes the guise of reciprocity. This form of redistribution was es-
sentially consistent with that in absolutist monarchies as well as
nation-states. By redistributing the tax it levies, the state apparatus
seeks to resolve class conflicts and solve unemployment problems.
And again all of these are represented as the state’s gift.
Plunder is compulsive, while the reciprocity of gifting assumes a
different kind of compelling power. That is, a gift compels the gifted
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to make a return. As typically observed in potlatch, gifting the other
is returned by the other’s double gift, and this reciprocity continues
ad infinitum. This compelling power is different from the one in ex-
change, that enforces the carrying out of a contract. This power
(called mana or hau by some aboriginals) is driven by the psychologi-
cal feeling of debt. Functionalist anthropologists interpreted this
reciprocity of gifting as having resulted in exchange. Herein the ex-
change had not been intended. Therefore, gift and commodity ex-
change should be deemed a genealogically unrelated, but coexisting
difference. And it is never likely that commodity exchange would
cover the whole domain of human exchanges, precisely like com-
modity production remains a part of production in general. Even in
fully developed capitalist economies where commodity exchange
reaches its zenith by way of commodifying labor power, commodity
exchange remains strictly partial. The forms of robbery and gifting
persist even in the stage in which commodity production and
commodity exchange appear to permeate to the limit.
Marxists typically held that the economic domain was a base struc-
ture, while state and nation were superstructure. Furthermore, they
restated that the superstructure nevertheless was relatively au-
tonomous to, though determined by, the economic base. First, the
very notion that the capitalist economy is base or infrastructure is it-
self questionable. The world organized by money and credit is
rather one of illusion, with a peculiarly religious nature. Saying this
from the opposite view, even though state and nation are composed
by communal illusion, precisely like capitalism, they inevitably exist
thanks to their realistic grounds. So it is that we cannot dissolve
them by saying that they are illusory.
It must be thought that capital, state, and nation are indepen-
dently based on different principles of exchange. It is difficult to dis-
tinguish them because they formed a trinity at the beginning of the
bourgeois modern state that still persists. It is thus necessary to dis-
tinguish the principles of exchange, according to each type. This at-
tempt should be different from a historiographical analysis, rather a
kind of transcendental retrospection. We would discover herein the
three types of exchange: the reciprocity of gift and return, plunder
and redistribution, and commodity exchange via money. What is
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more, there is another type of exchange: we call this ‘association’.
This is based upon a principle distinct from either of the three:
therein the exchange would no longer be exploitive like that in the
state and capital; the reciprocity would be spontaneous and open
unlike that in the agrarian community.
It is possible to say that in the beginning of modernity the commod-
ity exchange expanded dramatically, overpowering other types of ex-
change. No matter how much it expands, however, it won’t be able to
assimilate every domain. (In this sense, today’s prospects based on the
globalization fever are wrong.) First, as Marx said, it is the “juridical
relation, whose form is the contract.”
In other words, it already relies
on the state apparatus that guarantees and protects the execution of
the contract by means of violence. Second, it won’t be able to decom-
pose the traditional community entirely. For instance, it won’t be able
to replace the family relationship with the commercial relationship in
the market economy. It has to rely on the noncommercial relation-
ship within family. Furthermore, the commodity economy cannot to-
tally assimilate agricultural production. Capital has to depend on the
relations in family and community, especially in order for the produc-
tion of humans and nature. The capitalist economy can exist upon
the premise of the non/precapitalist mode of production. Therefore,
these other forms will persist, no matter how far the capitalist market
economy is globalized. Later on, I scrutinize the cases of the state and
nation. Here it is crucial to note that capital, state, and nation should
be seen as different forms of human exchange, and not structured
like the architectonic metaphor: base/superstructure. It is important
to understand the hardship entailed in human exchange, the hard-
ship that is responsible for the endurance of the oppressive forms of
capital, state, and nation.
Adam Smith did not distinguish commodity exchange from ex-
change in general. This is the same as identifying the social division
of labor by commodity exchange with the division of labor within
communities. He takes for granted the principle of the market econ-
omy as a suprahistorical principle. Those who objected to this posi-
tion—Polanyi being one of them—resorted to a form of exchange
other than that of commodity. Lévi-Strauss and George Bataille
interpreted exchange in a wider sense. Lévi-Strauss approached the
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structure of kinship from the vantage point of the exchange of
women. According to Bataille, gift is a form of exchange, and the
commodity economy is just a part of the “general economy.” Neither
of these attempts tackled the problematic inherent in commodity
exchange, even if they proved the historicity and partiality of the
market economy.
Notwithstanding that it is based upon consensus, commodity ex-
change produces a hierarchical relationship. This relationship, how-
ever, is not the same as the one based on plunder. The hierarchy
inherent in the capitalist economy derives from the asymmetric rela-
tionship between commodity and money. This is based upon the
fact that commodity cannot be exchanged if not mediated by the
equivalent (money). Hence Marx retrospectively inquired first into
the form of value that nurtures commodity and money (rather than
the owner of commodity and the owner of money themselves).
Every individual can be the owner of a commodity and/or of money.
Yet the commodity/money relationship—that between the relative
form of value and the equivalent form—persists. Capital can sustain
itself inasmuch as it self-reproduces and self-valorizes. This move-
ment must persist no matter who the agents and what they think.
This has nothing to do with individual desire and will.
For this pre-
cise reason, Marx said:
To prevent possible misunderstandings, let me say this. I do not by any
means depict the capitalist and landowner in rosy colors. But individuals are
dealt with here only in so far as they are the personifications of economic
categories, the bearers [Träger] of particular class-relations and interests. My
standpoint, from which the development of the economic formation of soci-
ety is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the
individual responsible for relations whose creature he remains, socially
speaking, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them.
In this domain, individuals cannot be the subject as they are, except
that, if they can be subjective (active), it is only as an agent of the
category of money. So it is that the capitalists can be active. How-
ever, capitalists are also confronting hardship: surplus value can be
attained only by the wage workers in totality buying back what they
produce. That is to say that capital at least once has to stand in the po-
sition of buyer, being subordinated to the will of the wage workers
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who are in the position of seller. Here there is a dialectic that is differ-
ent from the Hegelian dialectic based upon the relationship between
master and slaves, based upon plunder. The neoclassical economists
overlooked this dynamic relation between categories that entails an
overturn. They assume only consumerists and corporations as the sub-
jects of economic activity and speak of the issues of the market econ-
omy as if the crux were just how corporations could respond to the
demands of the consumers. This position forms a stagnant parallelism
with the majority of Marxists who are only concerned with the class
domination that exists in the production process.
For both classical and neoclassical economists, the task is to eluci-
date how the social equilibrium can be achieved when individuals are
acting for their maximal interest (i.e., either profit or utility). This
thematic belongs to the matter of the market economy and its mech-
anism; it has nothing to do with the foundational question, What is
capitalism? These economists start from the individuals and compa-
nies who pursue their maximal interests. Yet these individuals them-
selves are the products of the commodity economy, and thus
historical. Their desire itself is already mediated. In order to shed light
on this, we have to return to the form of pre-industrial capital, rather
than focusing on the characteristics of advanced industrial capital.
Classical economics dropped money because its predecessor, the
ideology of mercantilism, had supported the accumulation of
money by trade. Money gives anyone the right to exchange directly
with anything, anytime, and therefore, everyone seeks to have it.
This is the fetish of money. Nonetheless, Marx’s objective was no
longer simply to criticize the illusion of bullionism. Classical econo-
mists had already attacked the money-fetishist thinking of mercantil-
ism, and Marx acknowledged this as their great contribution; that
they opposed the money-centered stance of mercantilism and
sought to reconsider the value of commodity from the vantage point
of the process of production. Meanwhile, he himself was consistently
concerned with money qua metaphysical conundrum. He wrote
about it in A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:
Only the conventions of everyday life make it appear commonplace and or-
dinary that social relations of production should assume the shape of
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things, so that the relations into which people enter in the course of their
work appear as the relations of things to one another and of things to peo-
ple. This mystification is still a very simple one in the case of a commodity.
Everybody understands more or less clearly that the relations of commodi-
ties as exchange values are really the relations of people to the productive
activities of one another. The semblance of simplicity disappears in more
advanced relations of production. All the illusions of the monetary system
arise from the failure to perceive that money, though a physical object with
distinct properties, represents a social relation of production. As soon as
the modern economists, who sneer at the illusions of the monetary system,
deal with the more complex economic categories, such as capital, they dis-
play the same illusions. This emerges clearly in their confession of naive as-
tonishment when the phenomenon that they have just ponderously
described as a thing reappears as a social relation and, a moment later,
having been defined as a social relation, teases them once more as a thing.
The magic of money was no longer the concern for classical econo-
mists. Money, for them, was just a barometer of value (labor time)
immanent in commodity, or a means of circulation. It follows that
they gave importance to the production of goods and services and
the adjustment of exchange by market. This emphasis made them
overlook the mystery of capital as self-reproducing money, or the
fundamental motive drive of capitalism. Furthermore, it made them
lose sight of the asymmetric, hierarchical relation between capital as
the buyer and wage workers as those who have to sell their labor-
power commodity; it made them fail to grasp the critical moment of
capital—that it has to, at least once, stand in the selling position due
to its self-reproductive nature.
What Marx said with respect to “circulation” can be summarized
as follows: in the process of circulation C-M-CЈ, C-M (selling) and
M-C (buying) are separate, and precisely for this reason, the sphere of
exchange is infinitely expandable in both space and time. Neverthe-
less, in this process, because of the fatal leap implicit in C-M or CЈ-M
(selling), the “possibility of crises” exists. If circulation is expressed
in the circuit C-M-C, this process simultaneously contains a reverse
process: M-C and CЈ-M. That is to say, the movement of money is the
circulation of commodities, but not vice versa. “Hence although the
movement of money is merely the expression of the circulation of
commodities, the situation appears to be the reverse of this, namely
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the circulation of commodities seems to be the result of the move-
ment of money.”
Therefore, C-M-CЈ and M-C-MЈ seem like the
front and back of the same cycle, but are completely different be-
cause the initiative of the circulation is seized and controlled by the
possessor of money.
The movement of capital is, simply expressed, M-C-MЈ (Mϩ⌬M).
In vulgar economics, capital simply means funds, while to Marx capi-
tal means the whole process of metamorphosis—from money to pro-
duction equipment/raw material, to products, and to money again.
If the metamorphosis is not complete, namely, if capital cannot
complete its self-reproduction, it is no longer capital. But, because
the metamorphosis appears as the circulation of commodity, the
movement of capital is concealed within. For this reason precisely,
in the imagination of classical and neoclassical economists the self-
reproductive movement of capital is dissolved within the circulation
of commodities, or in the process of the production and consump-
tion of goods. The ideologues of industrial capital avoid the word
‘capitalism’, preferring ‘market economy’, which conveniently rep-
resents capital’s movement as people’s free exchange of things via
money in the marketplace. This veils the fact that market exchange
is at the same time the place for capital’s accumulation. When the
market economy is in turmoil, these ideologues like to criticize spec-
ulative financial capital as being responsible for the disorder, as if
the market economy itself were innocent of capital’s business.
The economic phenomenon that appears as the production and
consumption of goods contains a veiled, perverted drive which is to-
tally different from the ostensible activity. This is the will to MЈ (Mϩ
⌬M), “the fetishism of money.” But Marx saw it as the fetish of com-
modity; this was because he took as a given that classical economists
had already criticized the fetishism of money. At the same time, he
realized that the fetishism of money was still surviving, inscribed
within the stance of classical economics itself (especially the claim
that each commodity internalizes value). So it is that the fetishism of
commodity here should not be confused with the commodity fetish
in the field of consumption, namely, that which fixes consumers’
eyes on advertisements in mass image or show windows—the focus
of innumerable Marxian historians and cultural commentators
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today. This is equal to the drive to attain the right to consume any-
where and anytime, instead of consumption at this moment. It is this
drive that makes gold—out of all other commodities—sublime.
What I would like to focus on here is not how capital’s self-repro-
duction is possible but why capital’s movement has to continue end-
lessly. Indeed this is interminable and without telos. If merchant capital
(or mercantilism) that runs after money (gold) is a perversion, then
industrial capital, that appears to be more productive, has been be-
queathed the perversion. In fact, before the advent of industrial cap-
ital, the whole apparatus of capitalism, including the credit system,
had already been complete; industrial capital began within the appa-
ratus and altered it according to its disposition. Then what is the
perversion that motivates the economic activity of capitalism? It is
the fetishism of money (commodity).
At the fountainhead of capitalism, Marx discovered the miser
(money hoarder), who lives the fetishism of money in reality. Owning
money amounts to owning “social prerogative,” by means of which
one can exchange anything, anytime, anywhere. A money hoarder is a
person who gives up the actual use-value in exchange for this “right.”
Treating money not as a medium but as an end in itself, plutolatory, or
the drive to accumulate wealth, is not motivated by material need.
Ironically, the miser is materially disinterested, just like the devotee
who is indifferent to this world in order to “accumulate riches in
heaven.” In a miser there is a quality akin to religious perversion. In
fact, both money saving (hoarding) and world religion appeared at
the same time, that is, when circulation—which was first formed “in
between” communities and gradually interiorized within them—
achieved a certain global nature. Therefore, if one sees the sublime in
religious perversion, one should see the same in a miser’s perversion;
or if one sees a certain vulgar sentiment in the miser, one should see
the same in the religious perversion. It is the same sublime perversion.
The hoarder therefore sacrifices the lusts of his flesh to the fetish of gold.
He takes the gospel of abstinence very seriously. On the other hand, he can-
not withdraw any more from circulation, in the shape of money, than he
has thrown into it, in the shape of commodities. The more he produces, the
more he can sell. Work, thrift, and greed are therefore his three cardinal
virtues, and to sell much and buy little is the sum of his political economy.
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The ‘motive’ for hoarding money does not come from the desire—
whether or not mediated by the desire of others—for material (use
value). It must be said that all psychological or physiological ap-
proaches to analyzing this motive are altogether more vulgar than
the miser himself, because lurking behind the motive of the miser is
a religious problem, as it were.
Because material can be purchased anytime if money is saved,
there is no need to stockpile. So it is that saving or accumulation it-
self begins in the saving of money. Saving money instead of material
is not caused by any technical limitation of saving material. Outside
the sphere of the monetary economy there is no autotelic impulse to
save in any community. As George Bataille said, in such communi-
ties, excessive products are just expended. Far from being motivated
by need or desire, saving is rooted in perversion (the opposite of
need or desire); and, in reverse, it is the saving that creates in indi-
viduals the more-than-necessary need and multifarious desire. To be
sure, the savings of the miser and the capitalist are not the same;
while the miser attempts to be left out of the circulation process by
selling much and buying little, the capitalist has to voluntarily leap
into the auto-movement M-C-MЈ (Mϩ⌬M).
Use-value must therefore never be treated as the immediate aim of the capi-
talist; nor must the profit on any single transaction. His aim is rather the
unceasing movement of profit-making. The boundless drive for enrich-
ment, this passionate chase after value, is common to the capitalist and the
miser; but while the miser is merely a capitalist gone mad, the capitalist is
a rational miser. The ceaseless augmentation of value, which the miser
seeks to attain by saving his money from circulation, is achieved by the
more acute capitalist by means of throwing his money again and again into
What motivates the movement of merchant capital is the same as the
saving impulse (money fetishism) of a miser. Merchant capital’s sav-
ing of money in consequence realizes the saving of goods, though it
appears less as an accumulation of various products from various
places than as an expansion of the process of circulation or of pro-
duction and consumption. The same can be said of industrial capi-
tal—it does not aim at the increase of goods (use-value), as classical
economics thought. In this sense, Max Weber was correct when he
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saw an asceticism to use-value in the motivation of industrial capital-
ism. Puritans were “rational misers,” as it were; however, what drives
capitalism is not their rationality but their perversion. The “drive” of
capitalism exists in this paradoxical nature: the rejection of goods
ends up accruing more goods, contributing to the accumulation of
property. For this reason, negation of the desire toward consump-
tion, the ‘materialism’, cannot amount to the criticism of capitalism.
As I quoted earlier, Marx posited merchant capital and interest-
bearing capital as the oldest forms of capital. But at their root are
money-hoarders. In reality, both usurer and interest can exist only
thanks to money hoarding, that which causes the shortage of money
in the circulation process. Therefore, the movement of capital, the
hoarding drive, that unwittingly has been forming the globalization
of ‘humanity’ in the world, does not have a rational motivation. In
Freudian terms it is a sort of “compulsion to repeat [Wiederhol-
ungszwang].” This nature comes to manifest itself in totality in the
stage of capitalist production—wherein the commodity economy
subsumes the labor-power commodity and makes merchant capital
commercial capital, merely, a division of the whole system. This
compulsion to repeat can be elucidated only by a retrospective
query to the miser.
5.4 Money and Its Theology, Its Metaphysics
Being nurtured in between communities, merchant capital or the
commodity economy has, in principle, a global nature. Capitalist
production, though only partial, can affect and transform the whole
world because this power comes from the sociality (global nature) of
the commodity economy. “As money develops into world money, so
the commodity owner becomes a cosmopolitan. The cosmopolitan
relations of men to one another originally comprise only their rela-
tions as commodity owners. Commodities as such are indifferent to
all religious, political, national, and linguistic barriers. Their universal
language is price and their common bond is money.”
For instance,
the realistic ground for Kant’s cosmopolitan society [Weltbürgergesell-
shaft] lies in the commodity economy. In fact, Kant, too, saw the
ground for “perpetual peace” in the development of commerce.
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Classical economists of the age when industrial capitalism became
dominant lost any awareness of the theological nature of the com-
modity economy. Young Marx said: “For Germany the criticism of re-
ligion is in the main complete, and criticism of religion is the
premise of all criticisms. . . . Thus the criticism of heaven turns into
the criticism of the earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of
law and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.”
ously, his target was not religious people themselves, but those en-
lightenment thinkers who sought to rationally abolish religion. But
“[t]o abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to de-
mand the real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the
existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which
needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criti-
cism of the vale of tears, the halo of which is religion.”
His stress is that
religion will never be abolished unless the real unhappiness of peo-
ple within which religion grows is abolished. The theoretical criti-
cism per se of religion cannot affect religion; the religious
problematic can only be solved practically.
At the same time, however, it was in the monetary economy that
Marx saw ‘secular religion’, as it were. Marx’s critique of the political
economy was an extension of his critique of religion. In this respect,
there is no “epistemological break” as such. While appreciating the
achievements of classical economists, Marx detected the original mo-
tive of capitalism in the bullionism (monetary system) they had de-
rided. He persisted in taking seriously the situation in which the thing,
gold, is sublime. To him, the sublime quality exists not in the nature
of the object in and of itself, but in its “universal exchangeability.”
The bullionism that considered the objecthood of gold itself as sub-
lime was not taken seriously, while, as a point of fact, the global econ-
omy in the age of mercantilism was sustained by gold as world money.
This has also been the case since the advent of industrial capitalism; at
moments of world crises, people all of a sudden return to gold.
respect to this religious power of money-gold, Marx, of Capital in par-
ticular, would say: “For [England] the criticism of mercantilism is in
the main complete, and this criticism is the premise of all criticisms.”
Quoting Shakespeare in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of
1844, Marx touches upon the mysterious power of money that
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dissolves and binds people, that dissolves communities and socially
recombines individuals:
Shakespeare stresses two properties of money especially:
(1) It is the visible divinity—the transformation of all human and natural
properties into their contraries, the universal confounding and distorting
of things: impossibilities are soldered together by it.
(2) It is the common whore, the common procurer of people and nations.
The distorting and confounding of all human and natural qualities, the
fraternization of impossibilities—the divine power of money—lies in its
character as men’s estranged, alienating and self-disposing species-nature.
Money is the alienated ability of mankind.
That which I am unable to do as a man, and of which therefore all my in-
dividual essential powers are incapable, I am able to do by means of money.
Money thus turns each of these powers into something which in itself it is
not—turns it, that is, into its contrary.
Common opinion says that here Marx applied Feuerbach’s logic of
seeing God as the self-alienation of the human’s species-being or
common essence (in The Essence of Christianity) to his account of
money. Thus there was a call to return to early Marx. On the other
hand, Althusser and others argued that the revolutionary break oc-
curred in later Marx, after he discarded his earlier alienation theory.
I am doubtful of both. In the first place, although the Feuerbachian
critique of religion certainly employs Hegel’s vocabulary, its content
is different from Hegel. In Hegel self-alienation is not, like in Feuer-
bach, a perverted phenomenon wherein the essence of self comes to
be contradictory to the self, and the self kneels before it. Rather
Feuerbach’s idea, it must be said, derived from the Kantian theory
of the sublime. That is to say, the feeling of sublime arises in one’s
mind when facing an object which is overwhelming to one’s senses;
however the feeling is not caused by the object itself but by one’s in-
tuiting the infinity of reason that goes beyond the finity of one’s sen-
sibility. The feeling of sublime is nonetheless perceived to have come
from the object itself. In this precise sense, the sublime is the self-
alienation of a human’s fundamental faculties. And, importantly, this
is similar to but different from religious awe.
Yet Feuerbach did not persist in the Kantian position. According
to Feuerbach, for humans who are sensuous and the species-being,
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religion is an alienated way of grasping the species-being; and hu-
mans must recapture the common essence. This criticism of religion
was a regression from Kant. First, Kant had already negated religions
except for their moral aspect; second, the feeling of the sublime
arose only after the religious awe to coercive nature had disap-
peared. It follows that the logic achieved in the experience of the
sublime cannot be applied to the criticism of religion. The sublime
itself already assumes the negation of religion. The Kantian sublime
must be found strictly in natural objects, because this particular feel-
ing is established only when humans are fully enlightened and
become secular beings. Therefore, even if it is true that Marx appro-
priated Feuerbachian criticism of religion to the criticism of the sec-
ular capitalist economy, his theory of money would be better
understood if it were approached via Kant’s theory of sublime. Fur-
thermore, unlike the Feuerbachian theory of self-alienation, Kant’s
theory of the sublime already contains a recognition of capitalism.
That is, Kant’s beauty that is discovered by “dis-interestedness” is al-
ready a byproduct of the commodity economy, the movement that is
disinterested in the qualitative differences of use value. Nonetheless,
in the case of beauty it is still inseparable from the use value ϭplea-
sure principle, while the sublime appears as totally contradictory to
the principle.
By the same token, a liking for the sublime in nature is only negative
(whereas a liking for the beautiful is positive): it is a feeling that the imagina-
tion by its own action is depriving itself of its freedom, in being determined
purposively according to a law different from that of its empirical use. The
imagination thereby acquires an expansion and a might that surpasses
the one it sacrifices; but the basis of this might is concealed from it; instead
the imagination feels the sacrifice or deprivation and at the same time the
cause to which it is being subjugated.
In the sublime, a certain pleasure is attained by displeasure. Kant de-
fines it as “acquir[ing] an expansion and a might that surpasses the
one it sacrifices.” Isn’t this the problematic of surplus-value par ex-
cellence? This is evident in the following phrase from Kant’s Anthro-
pology from a Pragmatic Point of View.
Young man! Deny yourself satisfaction (of amusement, of debauchery, of
love, etc.), not with the Stoical intention of complete abstinence, but with
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the refined Epicurean intention of having in view an ever-growing pleasure.
This stinginess with the cash of your vital urge makes you definitely richer
through the postponement of pleasure, even if you should, for the most
part, renounce the indulgence of it until the end of your life. The aware-
ness of having pleasure under your control is, like everything idealistic,
more fruitful and more abundant than everything that satisfies the sense
through indulgence because it is thereby simultaneously consumed and
consequently lost from the aggregate of totality.
Freud conceptualized “the economic problem of masochism,” and
Kant conceptualized “the economic problem of the sublime,” as it
were. Here, according to our concerns, Kant seems to have likened
the sublime to the hoarding drive of capitalism. “[T]he postpone-
ment of pleasure” in Kant is not so much like that of Weber’s Protes-
tantism, “the spirit of capitalism,” but more precisely the spirit of
capitalists that Marx grasped as the “rational miser,” insatiably look-
ing after the pleasure of sustaining and expanding the right of di-
rect exchangeability rather than that of actual consumption. It has
been a common practice to explain modern capitalism from the
vantage point of the desire for use-value (consumption). But the in-
terminable movement of capital must be seen as the “drive [Trieb],”
in Freudian terms, that exists beyond the pleasure principle and the
reality principle—the death drive, more properly.
In terms of his own position with respect to the political economy,
Kant complied with Adam Smith’s labor theory of value. For him,
currency was not the least an enigma, neither was it sublime. He
questioned how goods become money.
The thing to be called money must, therefore, have cost as much industry to
produce or to obtain from other men as the industry by which those goods
(natural or artificial products) are acquired for which that industry is
. . . But how is it possible that what were at first only goods finally become
money? This would happen if a powerful, opulent ruler who at first used a
material for the adornment and splendor of his attendants (his court)
came to levy taxes on his subjects in this material (as goods) (e.g., gold, sil-
ver, copper, or a kind of beautiful seashell, cowries; or as in Congo a kind of
matting called makutes, in Senegal iron ingots, or on the Coast of Guinea
even black slaves), and in turn paid with this same material those his
demand moved to industry in procuring it, in accordance with exchange
regulations with them and among them (on a market or exchange).—In
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this way only (so it seems to me) could a certain merchandise have become
a lawful means of exchange of the industry of subjects with one another,
and thereby also become the wealth of the nation, that is, money.
Money is deemed here the nominal definition of exchange between
a worker who makes a product and another worker who makes an-
other product. Kant did not question why and how different labors
come to be compared according to the same standard. Born the son
of a craftsman, Kant disdained merchant capitalism or mercantilism,
like classical economists. His idea that synthetic judgment was ex-
pansive can be interpreted in the context of economic event that
profit (surplus value) should be earned in the production process
alone, and should not be a speculation that aims at producing dif-
ference in the circulation process. What Kant had in mind as an
ideal was the association of independent small producers, and not
the labor union or the like in industrial capitalist production that
had rarely existed in Germany in Kant’s lifetime. In this sense,
money in Kant’s term was not (and should not be) that which would
turn into capital. With respect to money, however, we should refer
not to his accounts of money but to Critique of Pure Reason. The im-
plication here is, of course, that money is a transcendental illusion
that one cannot easily get rid of.
The previous notwithstanding, one has to keep in mind the fact
that Kant did not consider the problematic of morals on a subjective
level. As I have said earlier, he saw the core of morality in the imper-
ative: “So act that you use humanity, whether in your own person or
in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never
merely as a means.” In other words, to Kant, to use others as a means
was the major premise to begin with. This was an affirmative recog-
nition of the social life constituted upon division of labor and ex-
change. For that matter, Smith’s economics was primarily a division
of ethics: upon the affirmation of egoism, he sought to go beyond
the contradictions caused by the egoism by introducing sympathy.
Even today, political economists who question the harms of the
market economy tend to resort to sympathy. Meanwhile, Kant criti-
cized Smith’s “moral sentiments,” and sought to treat morality as an
a priori law. Kant’s criticism of Smith makes Kant’s ethics or “the
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kingdom of ends” look subjectivist; but this could not be the case, for
it was based upon realistic, economic ground. That Kant saw the king-
dom of ends as a regulative idea contains a critique of the capitalist
economy precisely because the capitalist economy makes it fatally im-
possible to “treat humanity in the person of any other as an end.”
Contrary to what people usually imagine, Marx rarely spoke of the
future. In The German Ideology, which was mostly written by Engels,
Marx made the following addendum: “Communism is . . . not a state
of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will]
have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which
abolishes [aufhebt] the present state of things, the conditions of this
movement result from the premises now in existence.”
And the po-
tency to constitute this reality comes from capitalism itself. In this
sense, communism would exist as a companion to the movement of
capitalism, yet as an oppositional movement created by capitalism it-
self. This should not be, in Kantian terms, a constitutive idea,
namely, “an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself,” but a
regulative idée, namely, an ideal which constantly offers the ground
to criticize reality. An elucidation of capitalism is thereby an ethical
task par excellence. Here is the transcritical juncture between politi-
cal economy and morality, between Marxian critique and Kantian
5.5 Credit and Crisis
Kant rejected the metaphysics that projects what is achieved ex post
facto onto ex ante facto thinking. Yet at the same time, he acknowl-
edged as sine qua non any teleological projection into the future—
calling it the “transcendental illusion” [transszendentalen schein],
whose function we cannot dispense with, albeit only an ‘illusion’. He
maintained that even theory requires faith. It is my contention that
what supports the capitalist economy is credit qua transcendental illu-
sion. A commodity cannot express its value—no matter how much
labor time is expended to produce it—if it is not sold. Seen ex post
facto, the value of a commodity could be considered as existing in
social labor time, while in ex ante facto, there is no such guarantee.
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In order to self-reproduce, capital has to go through the ordeal of
C-MЈ (selling). If it fails, capital loses money with unsold objects—
M-C. To avoid this ordeal for now, credit is called for. According to
Marx, this is to assume the selling of C-M ideally, in advance; credit
takes the form of exchange where the actual payment is temporarily
suspended, but the counterbalancing/settling of accounts will occur
later. Of course, a bank note (or check) is credit, and, for that mat-
ter, money itself is already a kind of credit. We cannot belittle this
strange convention as just an illusory system. For instance, although
check, credit card, and digital money may appear to be inauthentic
in comparison with a gold coin, they are the same if seen from the
vantage point of credit. It is believed that it would be preferable to re-
mold gold coins (as currency) into pure gold, if the price of gold
were to go up; but in reality it cannot be the case and it is never
done—there are technical troubles as well as an inevitable loss in
weight—except that there is the faith of credit that it could be done
when the time comes. Gold currency and gold (gold as use value)
never match, though there is a persistent faith that they would ac-
cord. That is to say that the currency itself is already credit.
As Marx observed, the institution of credit, having come into exis-
tence together with the expansion of circulation in the manner of
“natural growing [Naturwüchsigkeit],”
expands circulation itself.
The credit system accelerates and eternalizes the cycle of capital’s
movement, for with this system capitalists can begin new investments
without having to wait for the outcome of the cycle M-C-MЈ. The ex-
pansion of the capitalist economy is no more and no less than the
expansion of the credit system. However, the fact that the origin of
credit is naturwüchsiges means it does not have a rational ground. At
the same time, credit is not formed within a state or a community,
but “in between” them, in the “social” relationship. No political
power can design and construct a credit system at its disposal; it can
only give legal background to the credit system, because it is the po-
litical power itself that relies on the social credit system. States issue
currencies, though it is not in their power to make them circulate in
reality. Imagine if there were a currency purely institutionalized by a
state power; it would not function in international trading, there-
fore, neither would it work within the nation-state.
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The essence of credit lies in its avoidance of the critical moment
inherent in the selling position—the postponement of the present
perplexity to the future. Though the balance must eventually be
paid with money, with credit the settlement can be deferred for
now. This postponement in time in a sense reverses capital’s M-C-MЈ
movement. The insecurity of the selling position may not surface im-
mediately, because it is the nature of credit to make it appear as if
the sale had already been made. But the danger persists; it is meta-
morphosed into the uncertainty of future money payment, while in-
volving a larger and larger nexus of creditors and debtors. Under
the credit system, the self-reproduction of capital occurs not because
of its desire for accumulation; it becomes compulsive because of its
desperate need to infinitely postpone the final settlement. It is from
the moment the credit system is set that the movement of capital
surpasses the will of individual capitalists and becomes a compul-
sion. (For instance, investment in equipment is usually financed by a
bank’s advance of funds, thus capital can no longer stop its activity
in order to pay back the debt and pay off the interest.)
Credit enforces capital’s movement endlessly at the same time
that it hastens capital’s self-reproduction and eliminates the danger
involved in selling. Seen in aggregate, the movement of capital (for
self-reproduction and self-valorization) must endure in order to
endlessly postpone the settlement as a stopgap maneuver: If there is
an end, the credit will have to collapse. To be sure, from time to
time the moment of settlement comes as a surprise attack: this is the
crisis that appears—only where credit is fully developed—as nothing
short of a collapse of credit. Nevertheless, credit is neither a mere il-
lusion nor an ideology, even if there is a certain truth in the asser-
tion that the currency economy forms an illusory system. It is still
true that the real that people encounter, once this illusion collapses,
is nothing natural and substantial. It is money.
Such a crisis occurs only where the ongoing chain of payments has been
fully developed, along with an artificial system for setting them. Whenever
there is a general disturbance of the mechanism, no matter what its cause,
money suddenly and immediately changes over from its merely nominal
shape, money of account, into hard cash. Profane commodities can no
longer replace it. The use-value of commodities becomes valueless, and
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their value vanishes in the face of their own form of value. The bourgeois,
drunk with prosperity and arrogantly certain of himself, has just declared
that money is a purely imaginary creation. ‘Commodities alone are money,’
he said. But now the opposite cry resounds over the markets of the world:
only money is a commodity. As the heart pants after fresh water, so pants
his soul after money, the only wealth. In a crisis, the antithesis between
commodities and their value-form, money, is raised to the level of an ab-
solute contradiction. Hence money’s form of appearance is here also a mat-
ter of indifference. The monetary famine remains whether payments have
to be made in gold or in credit-money, such as bank-notes.
In times of crisis it is not the material form of the commodity that
people cling to, but the “direct exchangeability” (equivalent form)
of the commodity—money itself. Before a financial crisis hits, there
is always an overheating of credit. Though the rate of profit falls
while the rate of interest soars, capitalists continue to invest in
competition—there is no other way for them to behave. To say it dif-
ferently, crisis occurs when capital driven by illusion expands be-
yond its competence. Kant called all “pretensions of reason”
speculative, and it is crisis that criticizes capital’s speculative expan-
sion in actuality. It critiques the ideology that presupposed an equi-
librium of economic development. In this sense, what impressed
Marx in writing Capital was not the “theory of surplus value”—that
which had already been posed and stressed by Ricardian leftists—
but the crisis as a symptom of the incurable, interminable illness of
capitalism. By way of a psychoanalytic retrospection or belated analy-
sis of deferred action [Nachtäglichkeit], as it were, Marx located the
symptom in the “value form,” that is, the asymmetric relation that
can never be sublated. The possibility of crisis exists in the split be-
tween buying and selling, and selling and paying, though this is also
the very potentiality of capital (qua self-reproductive money) itself. In
other words, surplus value, credit, and crisis form one and the same
circuitous movement of capital.
(And, in order to explain the peri-
odicity of crises, to be certain, one must consider industrial capital.
And I return to this later.)
Crises nevertheless do not dissolve capitalism; rather this is a capi-
talistic solution to the problems inherent in capitalism, and part of
the whole process of the prosperity cycle (prosperity-crisis-depres-
sion-prosperity). Crisis and the depression that follows are merely
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parts of the violent (or liberalistic) reformation of capitalist produc-
tion. The same periodical crises of Marx’s age are no longer exis-
tent, precisely like the victims of hysteria caused by sexual repression
that Freud encountered. Yet, so long as capitalism is a world consti-
tuted by the credit system, crises will continue to dog it.
The economic process is a religio-genic-process that continues to cre-
ate and expand the phantasmic domain of value. And the temporal-
ity of capitalism is similar to that of Judeo-Christianity in the sense
that the end is indefinitely deferred. This analogy, however, does
not intend to point out a parallelism or reciprocity between eco-
nomic and religious phenomena.
If religion is economic, it is so in
the sense that it is rooted in the burden of debt that the living feel
toward the dead, or namely, the exchange between this world and
that world. One should not disdain the economic. Rather all the se-
rious institutions of humanity: capital, state, nation, and religion
should be scrutinized from the economic standpoint. Whether or
not we believe in religion in the narrow sense, real capitalism places
us in a structure similar to that of the religious world. What drives us
in capitalism is neither the ideal nor the real (i.e., needs and de-
sires), but the metaphysics and theology originated in exchange and
commodity form. Marx conceptualized communism out of the logic
of capitalism itself—that which severs people from the local commu-
nities to which they are subordinated, and then recombines them so-
cially. To use the rhetoric of Matthew in The New Testament, money
as capital would say: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace
to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have
come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her
mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s
foe will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father
or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son
or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
In the stage that industrial capital was established, namely, when
the commodity economy began to control the whole of production by
the commodification of labor power, the view to see the previous soci-
ety from the vantage point of production—historical materialism—
finally came into existence. An elucidation of industrial capitalism is
useful in an elucidation of previous society, but not vice versa. “The
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anatomy of man is a key to the anatomy of the ape.”
The capitalist
economy cannot be explained by such concepts as “power of pro-
duction and the relation of production” or “infrastructure and
superstructure.” The crux to shed light on its mystery lies in the fact
that capital is engendered by the essential difficulty of human “ex-
change,” and precisely for this reason, it is not easy to abolish. I
would like to add, however, that it should not be impossible.
As Marx pointed out, capital is engendered at the point where
selling (C-M) and buying (M-C) are separated spatially and tempo-
rally. The separation not only fosters surplus value, but also eventu-
ally causes a credit crisis. This separation cannot be collapsed, and it
is wrong to presume that direct exchange is ever possible. Since
Georg Lukács, a theory of reification has been influential which
problematized the situation in which the relation between humans
wrongly appears as the relation between things. This problematiza-
tion is, more than anything else, a construct of the consciousness of
craftsmen (or producers of simple commodities) living within the
frame of the feudal hierarchy. For them, the relation which had
been transparent and direct now appears to be reified. However, so-
cial relations between human beings in the commodity economy
have been organized, from the beginning, by capital, and appear as
the relation between things. There has been no other way. It has al-
ways already been the case that we never know with whom we are
connected. It is nevertheless this separation that socially connects
people from enclosed communities and nation-states, and could
form a cosmopolis, a world civil society. In this social relation we
cannot know how we are mutually connected, while it is this ungras-
pable spatial ‘whole’ that morally forbids us to claim our mutual un-
relatedness. At this moment, more than half of the people around
the globe are starving; people in advanced countries cannot claim to
be unrelated, that is, innocent. But still the social relation cannot be
presented conspicuously. Thinking of the problematic spatiality,
one can no longer be so naive as to insist that the originally healthy
and organically connected relational world has become reified by
the intervention of capitalism. This is an ex post facto perspectival
perversion. It overlooks the most crucial fact that it is capital and
nothing else that organized social relation in the first place.
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Value Form and Surplus Value
6.1 Value and Surplus Value
I have dealt with the nature of the “drive [Trieb]” of capital’s self-
reproduction. Now it’s time to question how the self-reproduction is
made possible in the process M-C-MЈ. Said in the most common par-
lance, it is by buying low and selling high. Classical economists ac-
cused this act as exemplifying the cunning nature of merchants, and
stressed that the profit of industrial capital, in contrast, comes from
the process of production. Their insistence on the labor theory of
value understandably comes from this viewpoint. They considered
the process of circulation to be secondary, and sought to derive in-
terest and ground rent from the profit earned in the process of pro-
duction. When capitalist production began in England, however,
the credit system had already been in place, and even stock com-
panies had already been active. It was merchant capital that had
created them. Early industrial capitalists were no other than the
merchants who began the ‘putting-out system’ [Verlagssystem]. Indus-
trial capitalism and its theorists forgot their origin. The system of illu-
sion produced by the capitalist economy can never be explained
from the viewpoint of the production process alone. Marx began his
scrutiny from the process of circulation because the kernel of capital
exists in the formulation of the archi-capital M-C-MЈ, and because
capitalist production cannot exist if not for the world market engen-
dered by this formulation.
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The justification of classical economics was that the profit of in-
dustrial capital is produced by equivalent exchange; it is achieved by
the enforcement of the power of production by the division of labor
and cooperative work—the healthy, favorable acts. Marx, too,
claimed that surplus value cannot be achieved in the process of cir-
culation. “The capitalist class of a given country, taken as a whole,
cannot defraud itself. However much we twist and turn, the final
conclusions remain the same. If equivalents are exchanged, we still
have no surplus value. Circulation, or the exchange of commodities,
creates no value.”
Yet at the same time, he insisted that surplus
value cannot be realized in the process of production alone.
The total mass of commodities, the total product, must be sold, both that
portion which replaces constant and variable capital and that which repre-
sents surplus value. If this does not happen, or happens only partly, or only
at prices that are less than the price of production, then although the
worker is certainly exploited, his exploitation is not realized as such for the
capitalist and may even not involve any realization of the surplus-value ex-
tracted, or only a partial realization; indeed, it may even mean a partial or
complete loss of his capital. The conditions for immediate exploitation and
for the realization of that exploitation are not identical. Not only are they
separate in time and space, they are also separate in theory. The former is
restricted only by the society’s productive forces, the latter by the propor-
tionality between the different branches of production and by the society’s
power of consumption.
Marx is saying that, regardless of what happens in the process of pro-
duction, surplus value is finally realized in the process of circulation.
That makes it contradictory to the previous statement—that surplus
value cannot be achieved in the process of circulation.
Capital cannot therefore arise from circulation, and it is equally impossible
for it to arise apart from circulation. It must have its origin both in circula-
tion and not in circulation.
We therefore have a double result.
The transformation of money into capital has to be developed on the
basis of the immanent laws of the exchange of commodities, in such a way
that the starting-point is the exchange of equivalents. The money-owner,
who is as yet only a capitalist in larval form, must buy his commodities at
their value, sell them at their value, and yet at the end of the process with-
draw more value from circulation than he threw into it at the beginning.
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Value Form and Surplus Value
His emergence as a butterfly must, and yet must not, take place in the sphere
of circulation. These are the conditions of the problem. Hic Rhodus, hic salta!
It must be noted that this antinomy is not limited to the situation
of merchant capital. The surplus value in industrial capital, too,
“must, and yet must not, take place in the sphere of circulation.” If
so, we should consider this first with respect to merchant capital. As
Marx said, deriving surplus value from the division of circulation
alone within a value system is an unequal exchange, a fraud. On the
other hand, in the case of exchange between different value systems,
surplus value can be achieved even if each deal is of equal exchange
within each system. Thus the Marxian antinomy is solved by invoking
multiple value systems—and no other way. Marx continues:
On the other hand, as I have already remarked, the exchange of products
springs up at the points where different families, tribes or communities
come into contact; for at the dawn of civilization it is not private individuals
but families, tribes, etc. that meet on an independent footing. Different
communities find different means of production and different means of
subsistence in their natural environment. Hence their modes of production
and living, as well as their products, are different. It is this spontaneously
developed difference which, when different communities come into con-
tact, calls forth the mutual exchange of products and the consequent
gradual conversion of those products into commodities. Exchange does
not create the differences between spheres of production but it does bring
the different spheres into relation, thus converting them into more or less
interdependent branches of the collective production of a whole society.
Taking the origin of exchange into account in this manner—like
in Adam Smith’s attempt—gives us the impression that the mone-
tary exchange developed gradually out of barter. Yet the point in the
present context is that Marx retrospectively discovered the differ-
ence between communities at the fountainhead of exchange. And
that difference is the given of the natural conditions. Merchant capi-
tal came into existence in the difference, namely, between commu-
nities. “Trading nations, properly so called, exist only in the
interstice of the ancient world, like the gods of Epicurus in the inter-
mundia, or Jews in the pores of Polish society.”
It is precisely for the
nature of merchant capital that capitalism has never gone so far as
to transform the whole of conventional productions and relations of
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production. It has always remained partial, yet, by pursuing differ-
ence, produced the social and global nexus between peoples that
individual communities had never been able to organize.
The situation has not changed even since modern nation-states
have come into existence as an expansion or unification of the com-
munities. Marx’s “social [sozial]” is pointedly distinct from not only
Gemeinschaft, but also from Gesellschaft, because even the latter is an-
other kind of community that appeared after the establishment of
the commodity economy. For the consciousness within community,
for the thinking entrapped within, it is possible to say that money is
just an index of value or the medium of exchange. In contrast,
Marx’s term “social” should be exclusively used to describe the
exchange between different systems, and furthermore, exchange in
which one cannot know with whom the product is being exchanged.
Therefore, the social characteristics of the exchange that occurs in
between communities is more evident in foreign trade, wherein
money appears as world money [Weltgeld] qua universal commodity
in the social space.
But as coin, money loses its universal character, taking on a national, local
one. It is divided up into coinage of different sorts, according to the mater-
ial of which it consists, gold, copper, silver, etc. It acquires a political title,
and speaks, as it were, a different language in different countries. . . . Gold
and silver, like exchange itself, as already mentioned, do not initially ap-
pear within the sphere of a social community but at the point at which it
ends, at its boundaries; at its not very numerous points of contact with for-
eign communities. Gold and silver now appear posited as the commodity as
such, the universal commodity which preserves its character as a commodity
at all places.
Mercantilists clung to gold, not simply because of their mam-
monism, but rather because gold is the ultimate means of settlement
in international trade. And, with respect to this, Marx says, “How-
ever much the modern economists consider themselves to have ad-
vanced beyond the mercantile system, in periods of general crises
gold and silver figure in precisely this determination, in the year
1857 as much as in 1600. In this character, gold and silver [play] an
important role in the creation of world market.”
Mercantilists derived
gold from the balance of trade. Meanwhile, modern economists,
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Value Form and Surplus Value
who denied them, considered money simply as a denominator of
value and a means of circulation. This is equal to ignoring the
beings of multiple communities (qua value systems). Money trans-
forms into capital in the place of remaining a mere means of circula-
tion, mostly because of the beings of multiple systems.
The labor theory of value, that came from classical economics, was
conceptualized in a unitary system. Precisely for this reason, its fol-
lowers had to revise their theory when having to explain why the
prices of production attain average rates of profit in different
departments of production. Meanwhile, neoclassical economists
negated the labor theory of value and sought to explain value
(price) from the vantage point of utility (use-value). Employing the
concept of “marginal utility,” they posited the point of equilibrium
between supply and demand, without resorting to psychological ele-
ments. After all, however, classical economists too had assumed the
equilibrium of price in the market, and thus they had maintained
the value apropos labor time. They had paid attention to the mecha-
nism by which individual (anarchic) productions and exchanges
come to settle—ex post facto—in an equilibrium. Furthermore,
since the core of “marginal utility” of neoclassical economics had al-
ready been prefigured in Ricardo’s “law of diminishing returns,” its
invention cannot be attributed to the neoclassical school. Theories
of equilibrium—no matter how mathematically rigorous—are with-
out exception conceptualized within a unitary system, and thus
cannot tackle the ‘social intercourse’ capital engenders.
Now that one has to take different value systems into considera-
tion, one has to suppose a value of a commodity that is different
from its equilibrium price. So long as one thinks within a unitary sys-
tem, money is likened to zero that structures the system in a mathe-
matical sense (or philosophically, nothingness or apperception in
the Kantian term). Meanwhile, only where there are heterogeneous
systems can money transform into capital that gains surplus value
from the exchange between systems. Marx appears to be more ob-
sessed with the labor theory of value than Smith and Ricardo, who fi-
nally abandoned or revised their theory.
But Marx’s sense is totally
different from that of his predecessors. While for the classical econo-
mists, labor value is just a replacement of the equilibrium price that
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is established within a unitary system, Marx began his whole analysis
from manifold systems, and hence came to need the concepts of so-
cial and abstract labor value. Between manifold systems, a commod-
ity’s price naturally varies. What, then, is the value of a commodity?
Only by thinking in this manner does the value qua abstract labor
come to be proposed as distinct from the equilibrium price of a uni-
tary system. What is at stake here is that there are manifold systems;
that surplus value arises from their differences; therefore, that
money transforms into capital.
When criticizing Ricardo, Bailey already pointed out that the
value of a commodity does not exist by and for itself, but is deter-
mined by and for others, namely, in a relational system. This signi-
fies that the price of the same commodity differs in another system.
“Value is a relation between contemporary commodities, because
such only admit of being exchanged for each other; and if we com-
pare the value of a commodity at one time with its value at another,
it is only a comparison of the relation in which it stood at these
different times to some other commodity.”
That is to say that
commodities form a synchronic relational system, as it were. Bailey
seems to think of the relation in time, but it can and should be
thought of in space as well. When a commodity is placed in a differ-
ent system, the equilibrium price alters. This difference is not simply
caused by the fluctuation of price, but by the difference of the rela-
tional system itself. But, then, what happens when trade occurs be-
tween them? Here comes surplus value. Marx speaks of value clearly in
distinction from equilibrium price, because it is a matter of manifold
systems and, furthermore, surplus value.
6.2 The Linguistic Approach
No product can be produced without labor. Classical economics
thus posits labor as a substance of value. However, as we have seen,
what makes value of a product is the form of value, namely, the rela-
tional system of commodities. It is not that materials and labor by
themselves make value of things. It is thanks to the form of value
that materials and labor become economic objects. Classical econo-
mists conceptualized the labor value that exists beyond empirical
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Value Form and Surplus Value
prices, while neoclassical economists negated the value and sought
to remain in the sphere of empirical prices. What they both over-
looked is the fact that price as well as labor-value are derivative vari-
ants of the form of value (qua relational system). In order to solidify
our understanding of the form of value, a ‘linguistic’ reference is of
great help, because value is essentially like language. As we quickly
realize, however, it is rather linguistics that was shaped by following
the model of political economy. Roman Jakobson said as much:
In the century-old history of economics and linguistics, questions of uniting
both disciplines have arisen repeatedly. One may recall that economists of
the Enlightenment period used to attack linguistic problems (see Foucault
1966: chap, 3): as, for example, Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, who compiled
a study on etymology for the Encyclopédie (1756), or Adam Smith, who wrote
on the origin of language (1770). G. Tarde’s influence on Saussure’s
doctrine in such matters as circuit, exchange, value, output-input, and pro-
ducer-consumer is well known. Many common topics, as, for instance,
“dynamic synchrony,” contradictions within the system, and its contin-
ual motion, undergo similar developments in both fields. Fundamen-
tal economic concepts are repeatedly subjected to tentative semiotic
interpretation. . . .
At present, Talcott Parsons (in 1967 and 1968) systematically treats
money as “a very highly specialized language,” economic transactions as
“certain types of conversations,” the circulation of money as “the sending of
messages,” and the monetary system as “a code in the grammatical-syntacti-
cal sense.” He avowedly applies to the economic interchange the theory of
code and message developed in linguistics.
Saussure in fact employed a model of political economy when he
considered language as a synchronic system (i.e., Langue). The con-
cept “synchronic” indicates a certain state of equilibrium rather than
a tentative instant in time. The conventional linguistics had focused
on observing a certain linguistic element in its historical transforma-
tion, as detached from the whole of the system. Saussure posed an
antithesis to it: The transformation of elements in a relational sys-
tem provokes a shift of the whole system and produces a new system;
the diachronic transformation of a language must be grasped as a
change of system itself. This is nothing short of a shift from one
equilibrium to another. This idea was obviously taken from “the gen-
eral equilibrium system” of Vilfredo Pareto (1848–1923), who was
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teaching at the University of Laussane. But Saussure further devel-
oped this framework; he did not remain in Pareto’s model,
like many of Jakobson’s examples, which were just rewordings of
neoclassical economics.
Saussure differentiated himself from neoclassical theory. His con-
viction was that in language there are only differences; it is a system
of pure value
—these statements could not have been said had he
thought within a unitary system (i.e., of a Langue). He introduced
the concept of value only when he took into consideration another
system of Langue. Saussure’s point is that when a word is translated
into another language, it achieves the same meaning, yet at the
same time, the value of the word is altered in the new/different
system in correspondence to its different relationship with other
words. From this focal point, he explains that there is no meaning
(the signified) that is apodictically tied to the signifier, in other
words, no immanent meaning. As Hjelmslev pointed out, the signi-
fier and the signified cannot be conceptually separated as long as
one synchronic system is concerned. The concept of value as distinct
from meaning—or ‘price’, in economics—becomes necessary only
when manifold/different systems are at stake.
What about Marx? In general terms, he negated the idea of seeing
money and language analogically. “To compare money with lan-
guage is no less incorrect. Ideas are not transformed into language
in such a way that their particular attributes are dissolved and their
social character exists alongside them in language as do prices
alongside commodities. Ideas do not exist apart from language.
Ideas which must first be translated from their mother tongue into a
foreign language in order to circulate and to become exchangeable
would provide a better analogy; but then the analogy is not with the
language but with its foreignness.”
That is to say that, if an analogy
between language and money becomes crucial at all, it is only where
their foreignness [Fremdheit] is at stake.
Saussure employed economic figures only when he spoke of the
value of language that is distinguished from meaning. He explained
it by using examples of different currencies.
If one follows this
analogy, meaning is identified with price, while value corresponds to
the difference between the relational systems that determine price.
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Value Form and Surplus Value
Within a synchronic system, a commodity is made to be related to all
other commodities. Exchanging a commodity with money is not sim-
ply an occurrence between two things (the commodity and gold),
but it is equal to placing the commodity in relationship with all
other commodities. The price of a commodity does not simply ex-
press an equivalent relationship with money, but aggregates the rela-
tionship with all other commodities. What is more, the price of a
commodity varies in different systems. And the difference inex-
orably persists, even when an equilibrium of prices in individual
systems is presupposed. If placed between different systems, an ex-
change—even at a price that does only equal exchange within
individual systems—can generate margin (surplus value).
To repeat, Marx paid attention to value as it is distinguished from
equilibrium price, and this is because he began his thought from a
heterology of systems. He never presented value as an empirical—
which is an impossibility. Empirically speaking, all we have is an equi-
librium price. This is the same as saying that empirically there is only
profit, but not surplus value. That which Marx discovers as value—
the abstract, social labor—takes as a premise heterogeneous systems.
Therefore, in Marx’s concept of value, already conceived is the secret
as to how surplus value (or money) transforms into capital. But, even
though surplus value can be achieved between manifold systems as a
result, the whole event is invisible to each participant. This is pre-
cisely because the process of deriving surplus value M-C-MЈ is split
into M-C and C-MЈ—which occur in different times and places.
Circulation bursts through all the temporal, spatial and personal barriers im-
posed by the direct exchange of products, and it does this by splitting up the
direct identity present in this case between the exchange of one’s own product
and the acquisition of someone else’s into the two antithetical segments of
sale and purchase. To say that these mutually independent and antithetical
processes form an internal unity is to say also that their internal unity moves
forward through external antithesis. These two processes lack internal inde-
pendence because they complement each other. Hence, if the assertion of
their external independence [äusserliche Verselbständigung] proceeds to a cer-
tain critical point, their unity violently makes itself felt by producing—a crisis.
Herein exists the crucial point: what produces capital also makes the
possibility and inevitability of crisis. This is the destiny of capitalism.
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As Marx says, via money, selling and buying are split both spatially
and temporarily. The owner of money can buy anything, anywhere,
anytime. Seeing this again in analogy with language, money is like
writing [écriture] in contrast to speech [parole]. Written texts may be
read by anyone, anywhere, anytime, and its circulation is invisible.
What is univocally understandable to the present other in speech has
to be read differently in different languages (Langues) in writing.
The hatred of money of Ricardo or Prouhdon corresponds to the
hatred of writing. Both are hatreds of mediated communication,
going hand in hand with the fantasy of direct and transparent ex-
change. As Jacques Derrida problematized in Of Grammatology, phi-
losophy since Plato has entailed a hostility to letters, while admiring
the direct and transparent exchange-communication.
And the same
has been going on in the political economy as hostility toward
money. As Plato’s criticism of writing already took for granted the
irresolvable being of writing, the idea of barter, the starting point
of classical economists—such as seen in the narrative of Robinson
Crusoe—tacitly took as a premise the irreducible being of money
(qua the general equivalent).
It must be said that those political economists or socialists who
idealistically deny the apodeicity that exchange has to be mediated
by money are falling into metaphysics. Capital reads: “Value, there-
fore, does not have its description branded on its forehead; it rather
transforms every product of labor into a social hieroglyphic. Later
on, men try to decipher the hieroglyphic, to get behind the secret of
their own social product: for the characteristic which objects of util-
ity have of being value is as much men’s social product as is their
Marx saw the commodity form as “social hieroglyphic,”
which is in Derrida’s term archi-écriture. This is to say that money is
not just a secondary thing; and it is already inscribed in and as the
core of commodity form.
To conclude this section, I examine a critic who approached the
problematic of artistic value from the vantage point of the opacity of
social exchange, Paul Valéry.
After all, a work of art is an object, a human product, made with a view to
affecting certain individuals in a certain way. Works of art are either objects
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Value Form and Surplus Value
in the material sense of the term, or sequences of acts, as in the case of
drama or the dance, or else summations of successive impressions that are
also produced by acts, as in music. We may attempt to define our notion of
art by an analysis based on these objects, which may be taken as the
only positive elements in our investigations: considering these objects and
progressing on the one hand to their authors and on the other hand to
those whom they affect, we find that the phenomenon of art can be repre-
sented by two quite distinct transformations. (We have here the same
relation as that which prevails in economics between production and
What is extremely important is to note that these two transformations—
the author’s modification of the manufactured object and the change which
the object or work brings about in the consumer—are quite independent.
It follows that we should always consider them separately.
Any proposition involving all three terms, an author, a work, a spectator
or listener, is meaningless—for you will never find all three terms united in
observation. . . .
I shall go further—and here I come to a point you will no doubt find
strange and paradoxical, if you have not come to that conclusion about
what I have already said: art as a value (for basically, we are studying a prob-
lem of value) depends essentially on this nonidentification, this need for an
intermediary between producer and consumer. It is essential that there
should be something irreducible between them, that there should be no di-
rect communication, and that the work, the medium, should not give the
person it affects anything that can be reduced to an idea of the author’s
person and thinking.
. . . There will never be any accurate way of comparing what has hap-
pened in the two minds; and moreover, if what has happened in the one
were communicated directly to the other, all art would collapse, all the ef-
fects of art would disappear. The whole effect of art, the effort that author’s
work demands of the consumer, would be impossible without the interposi-
tion, between the author and his audience, of a new and impenetrable ele-
ment capable of acting upon other men’s being.
Thus Valéry points to the ultimate ground upon which the value of
artwork arises in the separation of two processes (production and
consumption), and the impenetrability of the gap. The direct target
of his critique here is evidently Hegelian aesthetics, which stands in
the position to subsume both processes, and claims that history has
no opacity. (For that matter, so-called Marxist aesthetics is the
same.) Valéry undoubtedly came to achieve this stance through his
reading of Capital.
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Seen from this perspective, capitalists are those who seek to
actually stand in different processes and systems. Merchant capital-
ists derive surplus value from the margin accrued between different
value systems. This is not in the least based upon the fraud of
unequal exchange. If a certain commodity is produced abun-
dantly in a certain region thanks to the natural environment, the
price within the relational system of commodities differs from
the prices in the system of regions where the commodity is scarce
or not produced at all. Merchants buy commodities where they
are cheap and sell them where they are expensive. They earn
surplus value from the balance, yet this is not fraud. Each ex-
change is executed according to the equilibrium in individual value
6.3 Merchant Capital and Industrial Capital
How then does industrial capital earn surplus value? Classical econo-
mists, who ideologically support industrial capital, emphasize the
importance of profit earned in the process of production rather
than in the process of circulation. Unlike Ricardian leftists, Ricardo
himself never thought so simply that this was an exploitation of sur-
plus labor, yet his idea contained the seeds from which this position
derived. Ricardo considered that the natural price (as distinguished
from the market price) of a commodity already contained profit—
that which is then distributed to ground rent (overhead) and inter-
As I mentioned previously, it is thought that Marx’s theory of
surplus value is a successor to this, and as a result, Marx’s theory has
been accused by many while defended by neo-Ricardians since Piero
Sraffa. For instance, Nobuo Okishio and Michio Morishima mathe-
matically proved the proposition: if the rate of profit is plus (positive),
the rate of surplus value is plus (positive), that is, surplus labor exists.
the problem of their predecessor, Ricardo, who began from labor
value and omitted money, still haunts. That is to say, this line of
thinking is strictly modeled within a homogenous system. What is of
fatal importance to us, however, is the fact that there are plural
value systems, and surplus value is engendered in the exchange
between them.
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Value Form and Surplus Value
Marx’s unique contribution is that he sought to understand indus-
trial capital, too, within the general formula M-C-MЈ. In other words,
Marx sought to reconsider surplus value from the vantage point of
circulation. To Marx, what distinguished industrial capital from
merchant capital was, first and foremost, that the former discovered
a ‘special commodity’ that the latter had not known—the commod-
ity of labor power. Industrial capital purchases this most special
commodity in human history—labor power—in order to produce
products, and then sells those products to the commodity itself—
laborers—in order to earn surplus value. For neoclassical econo-
mists, consumers and companies are the only economic subjects. To
them, laborers are deemed just wages as part of the cost of produc-
tion. Meanwhile, the surplus value of industrial capital is attained
only in a sort of circulation process: capital purchases labor power
from living laborers, who, in consequence, buy back what they pro-
duce from capital (and at this very moment, laborers are totally equal to
consumers). It is not that individual workers buy the very same things
they produce, but that in totality—and herein the concept totality
intervenes as a sine qua non—laborers qua consumers buy what they
produce. This further signifies that surplus value cannot be consid-
ered on the level of individual capital but strictly as total social capital.
Each capitalist knows that he does not confront his own worker as a pro-
ducer confronts a consumer, and so he wants to restrict his consumption,
i.e., his ability to exchange, his wages, as much as possible. But of course, he
wants the workers of other capitalists to be the greatest possible consumers
of his commodity. Yet the relationship of each capitalist to his workers is the
general relationship of capital and labor, the essential relation. It is precisely
this which gives rise to the illusion—true for each individual capitalist as
distinct from all the others—that apart from his own workers, the rest of the
working class confronts him not as workers, but as consumers and
exchangers—as moneyspenders. . . .
It is precisely this which distinguishes capital from the [feudal] relationship
of domination—that the worker confronts the capitalist as consumer and one
who posits exchange value, in the form of a possessor of money, of a simple cen-
ter of circulation—that he becomes one of the innumerable centers of circu-
lation, in which his specific character as worker is extinguished.
Such a separation between the spheres of production and marketing
nullifies the category of laborers and identifies it with consumers in
6715 CH06 UG 1/29/03 8:01 PM Page 235
general. As a result, neoclassical economists and the like identify con-
sumers as the subject, and companies as suppliers to their demands—
thus the illusion of the consumer subject that plays a major role in
consumer society. But this is not all. The acts of consumers against
companies such as protest and boycott are, in substance, laborers’
movement, yet they are considered as distinct and even made to
oppose it.
One of the most crucial lessons of Marx’s reflection is that surplus
value cannot be assessed from the process of individual capitals’
movements. In this fact there exist the complexity and invisibility of
capitalist system as a totality. Capital cannot realize surplus value un-
less it succeeds in selling its products, namely, unless its products
achieve value as commodity. But the problem is that the potential
buyers of the commodity are in reality either other capitals and/or
their laborers. This is the dilemma of individual capitalists. Going
after profit, capital tries to reduce wages and elongate labor-time of
its own workers to their limits. But if all capitals follow these tenets
unconditionally, surplus value won’t be realized because the poten-
tial buyers of the commodities, namely, the laborers, will be worn
out and beaten. Thus the more the individual capitals seek to attain
profit, the worse the recession gets in toto. But in the Great Depres-
sion of the 1930s, the total capital managed to reverse the impetus.
This was so-called Fordism. In consequence, what we know as the
consumerist society came into existence. These incidents were how-
ever not beyond Marx’s theoretical reach. Fordism or Keynesianism
signifies the intervention of the total social capital to restrain the
egoism of individual capitals in order to avoid total collapse, and in
turn, secure profit for the individual capitals. It appears to be con-
trary to the conviction of Adam Smith that everyone’s egoistic strive
for profit is in the end beneficial to everyone. Also it appears to be a
denial of the Weberian spirit of capitalism-Protestantism that en-
courages ‘diligence’ and ‘saving’. But they are nothing unimagin-
able within Marxian theory. It was shocking only for the view that
detects the realization of surplus value in individual capitals alone or
in the process of production alone.
Marx made a keen distinction between absolute surplus value and
relative surplus value: The former is attained by the lengthening of the
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Value Form and Surplus Value
labor day and reinforcement of labor power; the latter is attained by
sustaining the same labor day, yet lowering the value of labor power
indirectly by way of strengthening productivity. The explanation that
the lengthening of the labor day—namely, that laborers work longer
than the necessary labor time, that is, more than their labor value—
results in surplus value sounds reasonable, yet is too simplistic and
immediately encounters an impasse. According to this idea, a capi-
talist going bankrupt would indicate that he could not earn surplus
value, and therefore, that he was a ‘conscientious’ capitalist who did
not cold-bloodedly exploit his laborers. This is a logical fallacy due
to some misconceptions: first, that physical labor time equals value
substance; and second, that surplus value is earned only in the
process of production. Marx was well aware that the realization of
surplus value is completed in the process of circulation, and then
some: the process of circulation is not enough for the realization.
This is when he unleashes his antinomous cry, “Hic Rhodus, hic
To solve this aporia, the being of manifold systems must be intro-
duced again. The situations of industrial capital and merchant capi-
tal are different in characteristic, yet industrial capital too gains
surplus value, precisely like merchant capital, from the difference
between manifold systems. The labor-power commodity is placed in
the value system wherein all commodities relate to and rely on each
other. And Marx’s saying that the value of labor power varies accord-
ing to nation and epoch means that the value of labor power must
be taken into consideration in a synchronic relational system. Yet, if
it is considered within a unitary system, surplus value cannot occur.
In such a case, as merchant capital would be just a swindler, so
would industrial capital be just an exploiter.
The truth is that industrial capital earns surplus value by produc-
ing new value systems temporarily and continually. The surplus value
proper to industrial capital is thus relative surplus value. This is at-
tained by the following procedure: Technological innovation short-
ens labor time; this lowers the values of commodities that are
necessary for the reproduction of labor power; then, the value of
labor-power is lowered as a practical effect. Relative surplus value is
an exploitation in the double sense—development to take advantage of.
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To classical economists, profit is supposed to be gained exclusively
by the reinforcement of productivity enabled by the division of labor
and cooperation; and because capitalists are responsible for this,
profit belongs to them. Ricardian leftists regarded it as an exploita-
tion of surplus value, and Proudhon called it “theft.” Exploitation
and theft occur only because the division of labor and cooperation
are organized by the hand of capital, the owner of the means of pro-
duction. Thereupon appeared the idea of producers’ cooperatives
where workers themselves own the means of production and orga-
nize the division of labor and cooperation. But if this prospect
works, it would be only ex post facto a profit being made, while
in reality profit may not be made. Here exists the difficulty for the
producers’ cooperative. Capitalist corporations are constantly com-
pelled to innovate their production systems amidst competition with
others, and producers’ cooperatives, too, are thrown into the agon.
In order for them to be able to compete with capitalist enterprises,
producers’ cooperatives need not only outside funds but also an
internal management that organizes an effective division of labor
and cooperation and motivates technological innovations. Lacking
a recognition of this necessity, the majority of them disappear,
survive humbly in less competitive domains, or become capitalist
Vis-à-vis this same problem, Marx inherited classical economists’
thoughts on the division of labor and cooperation and called this
“the new power that arises from the fusion of many forces into a sin-
gle force.”
But that is not all there is to his idea: He goes on to
emphasize the fact that “the specialized worker produces no com-
modities. It is only the common product of all the specialized work-
ers that becomes a commodity”;
nevertheless, “[a capitalist] pays
[workers] the value of 100 independent labor powers, but he does
not pay for the combined labor power of 100. Being independent of
each other, the workers are isolated. They enter into relations with
the capitalist, but not with each other.”
And, furthermore, “[labor
power’s] use-value consists in the subsequent exercise of that power.
The alienation [Veräusserung] of labor-power and its real manifesta-
tion [Äusserung], that is, the period of its existence as a use-value, do
not coincide in time.”
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Value Form and Surplus Value
The previous phrases appear to be similar to those of classical eco-
nomics and Ricardian leftists, except that Marx introduces the tem-
porality of ex ante facto and ex post facto. Surplus value, unlike
profit, cannot be posited within the context of individual compa-
nies. Surplus value that makes possible the accumulation of capital is
engendered only in totality by workers selling their labor power and
with the money buying back the commodities they produced. And
only where there is a difference in price between value systems: A
(when they sell their labor power) and B (when they buy the com-
modities), is surplus value realized. This is so-called relative surplus
value. And this is attained only by incessant technological innova-
tion. Hence one finds that industrial capital too earns surplus value
from the interstice between two different systems. As Marx says, indi-
vidual workers cannot lay claim to what they produce as the result of
their combination prior to their production. Here is the inexorable
opacity engendered by the temporal sequence. Therefore, the sur-
plus value of industrial capital is not fraudulent, either; but this is
simply in the same sense that the surplus value of merchant capital is
not. If we accuse merchant capital of being an unequal exchange,
industrial capital has to be accused, too.
The need to produce different value systems temporally makes
the technological development of industrial capital inevitable. If,
like Joseph Alois Schumpeter, one praises the extra surplus value
earned by technological innovation as “entrepreneurship,” one
could consider the surplus value that merchant capital gains as a fair
share for its acumen in discovering the regional differences of val-
ues and its adventurous spirit of going to ever more remote places.
Schumpeter thought that the decline of entrepreneurship would
terminate capitalism. This only indicates that capital would end
when it can no longer exploit difference. It is only inevitable that the
entrepreneurship declines when difference is no longer produced.
But capital cannot help discovering and/or creating difference, no
matter what is at stake.
Thus, while merchant capital is engendered spatially by the differ-
ence between two value systems (that is invisible to those who exclu-
sively belong to either of the systems), industrial capital sustains
itself by continuing to produce different value systems temporally.
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The improvement of the productivity of labor enables industrial cap-
ital to produce different systems within a system. Therefore, the look
of equivalent exchange notwithstanding, it can achieve difference.
Then immediately thereafter, the difference is dissolved and a new
value system at the new level is required and produced. Capital has
to produce this difference incessantly and endlessly. It is this re-
quirement or burden that has motivated and conditioned the un-
precedentedly high speed of technological innovation in the age of
industrial capitalism. Despite both the praise and accusations sur-
rounding this phenomenon by ideologues of opposing sides, this
technological innovation is not motivated in and of itself; it is driven
by capitalism. As we have long been observing, for the expansion of
capital, a next to meaningless differentiation of technology is con-
stantly required. Capital is destined to motivate and continue tech-
nological innovation not for the sake of civilizing the world, but for
the sake of its own survival.
In order to avoid confusion I should clarify that the expression
‘the value of labor is lowered’ has nothing to do with lowered wages
or impoverishment. It means that the value of labor is lowered rela-
tive to the standard within the given value system. In the newly
formed value system, the lowered value of labor contemporaneously
confronts the lowered value of products. Therefore, as a result, the
living conditions of workers could be improved and even the work-
day could be shortened. This improvement does not in the least
contradict that capital nevertheless earns relative surplus value.
For the sake of definition, I have stressed the different ways by
which merchant capital and industrial capital earn surplus value—
the former from spatial difference and the latter by temporal differ-
entiation. But in reality, capital does not choose either/or; it
employs both. For instance, in the nineteenth century, English in-
dustrial capitalism bought cotton from India, manufactured it into
fabric, and exported it back to India. It earned tremendous profit
from this cycle, involving the difference of the Indian value system.
In consequence, it ruined the Indian manual labor industry, while
contributing to an increase in the production of raw cotton therein.
Today the situation has not changed: Industrial capitalism looks not
only for cheap raw materials but also for cheap labor power, roving
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Value Form and Surplus Value
all over the world. When wages get high domestically, companies
transport their factories abroad to find cheaper labor. Capital does
not choose where and how it gets surplus value. Even in economies
based upon industrial capital, the activities of merchant capital co-
exist omnipresently, including stock exchange and exchange rate. It
is this omnipresence of the activities of merchant capital that con-
stantly brings the fluctuating prices closer to equilibrium. The ma-
jority of economists warn today that the speculation of global
financial capital is detached from the ‘substantial’ economy. What
they overlook, however, is that the substantial economy as such is
also driven by illusion, and that such is the nature of the capitalist
6.4 Surplus Value and Profit
In the first volume of Capital, Marx considers capital in general, and
in the third volume, he deals, for the first time, with individual capi-
tals, namely, capitals in various branches of production. In other
words, the first volume deals with ‘value’ and ‘surplus value’, while
the third deals with the ‘price of production’ and ‘profit’. In the
beginning of the third volume, he explains the design:
It cannot be the purpose of the present, third volume simply to make gen-
eral reflections on this unity [of the production and circulation processes].
Our concern is rather to discover and present the concrete forms which
grow out of the process of capital’s movement considered as a whole. In their ac-
tual movement, capitals confront one another in certain concrete forms,
and, in relation to these, both the shape capital assumes in the immediate
production process and its shape in the process of circulation appear
merely as particular moments. The configurations of capital, as developed
in this volume, thus approach step by step the form in which they appear
on the surface of society, in the action of different capitals on one another,
i.e., in competition, and in the everyday consciousness of the agents of
production themselves.
In the everyday consciousness of the agents, namely, of industrial capi-
talists and their economists, how does the capital’s movement ap-
pear? For them, there is no such thing as surplus value. Profit is
everything. Price of production minus cost price leaves profit.
6715 CH06 UG 1/29/03 8:01 PM Page 241
Furthermore, from profit interest and ground rent are paid, and
self-consumption expenditure is excluded, then the rest is rein-
vested. For them, there is no such distinction, that is, of Marx, be-
tween variable capital (labor-power commodity) that accrues surplus
value and constant capital (means of production and raw material).
There is only the distinction between fixed capital (stock) and circu-
lation capital (flow). Wages are part of the cost price; they are not
distinguished from the costs of means of production and raw mater-
ial. Profit is considered to be made by the total capital input. Every
capital attempts to earn profit by reducing the cost price.
Capitals are divided into various industrial branches, that is, from
heavy industry to agriculture. The rate of profit of each branch ap-
proaches the average rate of profit. In the branches of higher rate of
profit, investments of capital become active, while in those with
lower rates, investments are withdrawn or productions are withheld.
The world of industries appears to be formed as if by natural selec-
tion or the law of the jungle. In the state of equilibrium in which an
average rate of profit is established, the price of production in vari-
ous branches assumes the kind of price with which to achieve aver-
age profit. To be certain, within the same branch fierce struggles
among capitals in search of extra profit constantly take place. This im-
proves the productivity—namely, the organic composition of capital—
of each branch.
For the empirical consciousness of capitalist society, the whole
thing about economic activity appears merely in the above manner.
Required is no more than achieving the equilibrium price (price of
production) that is distinguished from market price fluctuating by
the dynamic of supply and demand. Thus the insistence of neoclassi-
cal economists that the concepts of value and surplus value are false
is in total accord with the everyday consciousness of the agents. How-
ever, it is only by the reflection of such everyday consciousness that the
conundrum of surplus value can be shed light on. Our task is to con-
duct a retrospective query from this everyday consciousness in the
third volume to the general reflection in the first volume, reversing,
as it were, the order of Marx’s descriptive deployment. “In actual
fact, the rate of profit is the historical starting point. Surplus value
and the rate of surplus value are, relative to this, the invisible
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Value Form and Surplus Value
essence to be investigated, whereas the rate of profit and hence the
form of surplus-value as profit are visible surface phenomena.”
Marx spoke of this as “the transformation of surplus-value into
profit.” When the third volume was published posthumously under
Engels’s editorial supervision, this shift in stance became a target of
attack. For instance, in his Karl Marx and the Close of his System, Eugen
von Böhm-Bawerk argued that the tendency in the third volume
contradicted the theory of value in the first volume, and criticized
Marx for having given up his original design. Since then, many have
come to his defense, and this whole argumentation is known as the
transformation problem.
In my understanding, however, it is wrong to think that, in writing
the third volume, Marx gave up the design he had had in the first
volume. In an interesting way, this ‘discrepancy’ reminds me of
Kant, whose first critique tackles the issue of subject in general, but
whose third critique engages in the issue of plural subjects. This dif-
ference is commonly understood as that between scientific recogni-
tion and aesthetic judgment. Nevertheless, it goes without saying
that the multitude of subjects is at stake in scientific recognition,
too. Why, then, didn’t Kant begin his first critique with the issue of
conflicting subjects? Because he had to first ensure the issue of the
transcendental category and from that precede the multitude of
conflicting subjects. In a similar way, Marx approached capital in
general in the first volume in order to conduct a transcendental
scrutiny of the conditions with which the accumulation of capital is
made possible. This is equal to seeing the value of a commodity in
the context of the value system, and grasping the surplus value of
capital in the difference between value systems or in the differentia-
tion itself. In the third volume, Marx deals with plural capitals, while
at the same time transcendentally asking how it is empirically possible
that they realize profit or the rate of profit.
Speaking of the “transformation problem,” Smith and Ricardo
had already encountered a similar question. Based upon his labor
theory of value, Smith held that every commodity contains an imma-
nent value. But if, in a state of equilibrium, every capital achieves the
same average rate of profit, the price that makes this profit possible—
Smith’s “natural price” and Marx’s “price of production”—must
6715 CH06 UG 1/29/03 8:01 PM Page 243
diverge from the original value. Confronting it, Smith had to aban-
don his labor theory of value, and switch to a position that speaks to
labor as a relatively dominant factor. The problem here is that the
price that constitutes the equal rate of profit between industries
does not parallel the amount of input labor. If, in every branch of
industry, the rate of profit comes to be equal, the price of produc-
tion of a certain product must be either higher or lower than its
‘original value’. For this reason, Ricardo, too, partially revised his
labor theory of value and concluded that value cannot be deter-
mined only by labor input, except for those branches that have a
standard composition of capital and a standard turnover term of
capital. So it is that the transformation problem was not Marx’s
invention, but an aporia that had long existed.
It is the common understanding that Marx sought to solve this
aporia at the same time as sustaining the labor theory of value. Neo-
classical economists since Bawerk claimed to have pointed out
Marx’s contradiction, and sought to banish the notions of “value” or
“surplus value” altogether. Ironically, however, in the line of neo-
Ricardians since Sraffa, the correspondence between the rate of sur-
plus value and the rate of interest has been mathematically proven,
as has been touched upon earlier. But I do not think that this ex-
plains what Marx sought to do. First, Marx’s labor theory of value
and that of Ricardo are fundamentally different. As I have
already explained, Marx’s belief was: It is not that input labor time
determines the value, but conversely that the value form (system)
determines the social labor time. In other words, Marx sought to
transcendentally elucidate the formal system that valorizes the input-
labor. The term “surplus value” is of concern here. In distinction
from “profit,” it is a transcendental concept; it is not something that
is visible right here, empirically. Ricardo lacked this dimension, had
to resort to the labor theory of value to make up for it, and then
pulled it back when inconvenient.
In the third volume, Marx distinguishes rate of profit and rate of
surplus value in the following manner: While rate of profit is ,
the ratio of surplus value to the total social capital seen as the sum
total of variable capital (qua labor power) and constant capital (qua
raw material, means of production, etc.), the rate of surplus value is ,
_____ s
c ϩv
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Value Form and Surplus Value
the ratio of surplus value to the total social capital seen as variable
capital (labor power). Now if we suppose that the rate of surplus
value to the total social capital is fixed, in capitals in which the ratio
of constant capital to the total social capital is large, the rate of inter-
est must be lower. Then, how, in capitals of every branch, can an
average rate of profit be guaranteed? To repeat, the aporia Ricardo
encountered was this: If in industrial branches with different ratios
of variable capital and constant capital—or different organic compo-
sition of capital in Marx’s term—the same rate of profit has to be
achieved, price of production is diverged from the value qua input
labor. Ricardo thus came to posit that price of production accords
value only in capitals with standard organic composition. On the
other hand, Marx’s solution to this aporia is that the total surplus
value of total capital is distributed to the price of production of the
capitals of different industrial branches so that the average rate of
profit can be established in each branch.
To this rather strange idea, it is easy to pose alternatives. For in-
stance, as Engels critically mentioned in his preface to the third vol-
ume of Capital, George C. Stiebeling posed a solution: The rise of
the organic composition of capital increases the productivity of
labor and raises the rate of surplus value; therefore, the rate of
profit of the branch, even if it has a smaller ratio of variable capital,
goes up and approaches the average rate of profit. On the other
hand, Marx, though he admits that the transformation of organic
composition of capital affects the productivity of labor, assumes that
the productivity of labor is constant, that is, the rate of surplus value
is constant. Here Marx undoubtedly premised a certain synchronic
system wherein the rate of surplus value of total social capital is con-
stant. According to our primary definition, the surplus value of in-
dustrial capital is attained by the temporal differentiation of systems,
but then, what happens if it is seen synchronically? This is what Marx
did: “What we previously viewed as changes that the same capital un-
derwent in succession, we now consider as simultaneous distinctions
between capital investments that exist alongside one another in
different spheres of production.”
This method is also used else-
where: “We can now move on to apply the above equation for the
profit rate, pЈ ϭsЈv/c, to the various possible cases. We shall let the
6715 CH06 UG 1/29/03 8:01 PM Page 245
individual factors of sЈv/c vary successively in value, and establish the
effect of these changes on the rate of profit. We thus obtain various
sets of cases which we can consider either as successive changes in
circumstances for the action of one and the same capital, or, indeed,
as different capitals, existing simultaneously alongside one another,
and brought in for purposes of comparison, for example, from dif-
ferent branches of industry or from different countries.”
Marx saw as the same that capitals with higher organic composi-
tion and those with lower organic composition spatially coexist as
different branches of industry, and that capital in general tempo-
rally succeeds from lower stage to higher stage in organic composi-
tion. In the latter case, relative surplus value is achieved. And if this
temporal succession is shifted to the spatial dimension, it can be
considered that capitals with higher organic composition absorb
(exploit) relative surplus value from those with lower organic com-
position. Imagine an extreme case: an enterprise in which every as-
pect of production is automated, performed by robots. In this
production, the ratio of variable capital (workers) is zero, and the
rate of surplus value is supposed to be zero; nevertheless, an average
rate of profit is attained. In terms of Marx’s formulation, this is be-
cause the surplus value of total capital is distributed. That is to say
that highly profitable companies with relatively few employees—
such as, for instance, investment, information, and high-tech pro-
duction firms—may not appear to exploit workers who work in
different individual capitals directly, but they do so indirectly.
What are the implications of Marx’s idea that total surplus value is
being distributed to individual capitals? The first is that capital at-
tains surplus value only by workers—as a whole—buying back what
they produce; second that surplus value is inexorably invisible to in-
dividual capitals. In consequence, the inherent relationship between
capital and wage labor comes to be blurred. “Since all sections of cap-
ital equally appear as sources of the excess value (profit), the capital
relation is mystified.”
To the everyday consciousness of individual cap-
itals, their workers are merely a part of the price of production, and
the workers of other capitals are just consumers. Thus it has been
imperative to recapture the relationship between capital and wage
labor. But if, like a Ricardian leftist, one considers that exploitation
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Value Form and Surplus Value
occurs in the production process of individual capitals, we will face a
contradiction: that the capitals with higher organic composition gain
a rate of profit that is unfairly higher than the amount of their labor
input. It is here that Marx proposes an explanation—because the sur-
plus value earned by other capitals is being distributed to them. In
other words, the surplus value attained by the exploitation of other
capitals’ workers is being distributed to the capitals with higher or-
ganic compositions. If so, it is not only insufficient but also often
harmful to stress the exploitation in the production process on the
level of individual capitals alone. This is the reason why the labor
union movement based upon the theory of Ricardian leftists,
though flourishing, came to be reactionary. In the profit that a
certain individual capital gains, what is distributed is the surplus
value exploited from the workers of different industrial branches as
well as independent small producers; in the profit that the total cap-
ital of a certain nation-state gains, what is distributed is the surplus
value exploited from the workers and peasants of foreign coun-
tries (colonies). But the difficulty is that these details are always
When Marx assumed that total surplus value was being distributed
to individual capitals, he conceptualized it within a synchronic, equi-
librium system, it might be said. This can be grasped only on the
transcendental level (read not on the empirical level). Rather now
the spatial coexistence of branches should be transposed back into
temporal succession once more. In reality there are superior
branches in which technological innovations and expansion of
production continue, and inferior branches which are downsized
because of their inability to achieve the average rate of profit. The
equilibrium system created by the average rate of profit in fact veils
the actual violent selection and reformation of industrial branches.
And even within the same branch, individual capitals are exposed to
constant competition with each other. To beat the competition, they
tend toward technological innovations to effectively reduce the cost
of wages. They want to sell their commodities that have been produced
at a lower cost, for a price higher than the lowered cost, yet lower than
the previous price of production—by so doing, they get extra profit.
Marx thought that technological innovation was motivated by the
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activities of individual capitals seeking extra profit. Schumpeter
wrote about this, calling the essence of capitalism an incessant “cre-
ative destruction.”
But “creative destruction” does not occur con-
tinuously because once companies invest in new equipment, they
cannot discard it and refit so easily. In reality, the selection shows it-
self dramatically when the average rate of profit goes down, during
times of depression. I have stressed that the movement of capital is
in principle based upon relative surplus value attained by technolog-
ical innovation, but this process is never a smooth one; it always ap-
pears as the trade cycle. What Marx sought to do in the third volume
was to elucidate this mechanism.
The trade cycle is inevitable in the capitalist economy—no matter
how individual capitals behave. This is sheerly due to the behavior of
the total surplus value of total capital—the invisible whole. Trade cy-
cles in capitalist economies take the following path: During times of
prosperity, more laborers are hired, and wages rise; this causes a fall
of the rate of profit; despite the fall of the rate of profit, individual
capitals cannot so easily reduce production after having invested a
certain amount of constant capital; and especially when credit is
overheated, as it is during times of prosperity, it is difficult to antici-
pate (and sense) falls in the rate of profit; then, all of a sudden, cri-
sis hits, revealing the reality of the situation; many companies go
bankrupt, and many laborers are fired. With the continued falling
rate of profit, capitals tend toward the investment of constant capital
(qua the introduction of technological innovation); it is at this mo-
ment that the organic composition of capital improves across the
board; when the time of prosperity comes again, the labor power
that has been excessive is now absorbed, and wages rise; this lowers
the rate of profit; despite the fall of the rate of profit, capitals have
to continue to expand because of the swelling of credit; and crisis
hits again.
This is the (short-term) trade cycle that Marx observed during his
lifetime, called the Juglar cycle. Throughout the cycle, capital in gen-
eral advances its organic composition. As becomes clearer in this con-
text, the prolongation of labor time (absolute surplus value) is the
typical phenomenon of prosperity, an attempt to increase produc-
tion or to quickly collect on the investment in equipment without
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Value Form and Surplus Value
improving the organic composition. “The value of the fixed capital,
moreover, is now reproduced in a shorter series of turnover periods,
and the time for which it has to be advanced in order to make a cer-
tain profit is reduced. The prolongation of the working day thus
raises profits even if overtime is paid, and up to a certain point this is
true even if overtime is paid at a higher rate than normal working
The prolongation of the working day (the source of absolute sur-
plus value) is a common phenomenon in times of prosperity even
today when working hours are much shorter than during Marx’s
time. But working longer is not necessarily compelled by the em-
ployer: Workers sometimes want overtime pay. If a longer working
day is made compulsory, the workers’ living conditions are threat-
ened, namely, the reproduction of labor power—workers being
healthy enough to bear and raise children—is affected. Certainly
workers would resist, and even the bourgeois nation-state would in-
terfere (as exemplified in the factory act of nineteenth-century Eng-
land). The idea of Ricardian leftists that workers are made to work
longer than necessary, an idea that is often mistaken as Marx’s, be-
came the theoretical ground for the labor movement and con-
tributed to the shortening of working hours. In fact, working hours
have been gradually and constantly shortened throughout history.
Meanwhile, capitals continue to seek the intensification of labor.
the concept of absolute surplus value—defined as the surplus value
earned by the prolongation of working hours and intensification of
labor—does nothing to reveal the secret of capitalist production that
expands endlessly. (There is a strong tendency to centralize absolute
surplus value. Marx, for instance, began with absolute surplus value.
But in his case, it was just for the sake of description, and not anything
more significant. Therefore, one need not think of it as central.)
On the other hand, relative surplus value can only be earned by
creating new value systems through technological innovation. It is
during depression—when the rate of interest goes down—that capi-
tals raise their organic composition all at once. Technological inno-
vations, including those that have been rendered previously, are
fully employed at this moment. In short, the two kinds of surplus
value—absolute and relative—that Marx explained successively must
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be understood as two moments of capital’s circuitous movement in
the process of its accumulation. What is crucial here is that the rise
of capital’s organic composition—what earns total capital its relative
surplus value—can be made only via depression. Hence, the trade
cycle is destiny.
In order to capture surplus value, capital in sum has to constantly
create a new value system in which the value of labor power is consis-
tently lowered. But this cannot be realized at its convenience, but
only via the trade cycle, which is not caused by the anarchic nature
of capitalist production itself. As Kozo Uno stressed, in the final
analysis, it derives from the fact that the capitalist production relies
on a special commodity (labor-power commodity). It is humans,
who cannot be discarded when they are excessive, who cannot be
readily reproduced when scarce. Nevertheless, what we have to keep
in mind here is that crisis or trade cycle cannot be properly under-
stood if not for an examination of the ‘credit system’. The trade
cycle is shaped by the conflict and reciprocity between usurers’ capi-
tal (money capital) and industrial capital (real capital), namely, the
conflict and reciprocity between rate of interest and rate of profit.
And, as a result of the swelling of credit, the fall of the rate of profit,
that is already ongoing, does not affect businesses immediately.
(Overproduction is just one of the effects of this.) This whole makes
an invisible bind, both spatially and temporally, to our everyday,
empirical consciousness.
Here I would add that there are two kinds of trade cycle: short and
long. Marx observed the shorter.
In contrast, there is Kondratieff’s
wave, a trade cycle of fifty to sixty years. It is said that this longer
cycle cannot be explained simply by the economic process per se;
yet it is still concerned with the fall of the general rate of interest
and the employment of radical technological innovations. This
trade cycle involved a world crisis (i.e., the Great Depression) as well
as the alteration of a key commodity (the world commodity) of capi-
talist production—from cotton manufacturing to heavy industry to
durable consumer goods to the information industry. It inexorably
led to a reorganization of the whole society. As a result, it has been
stressed that the longer trade cycle, because of its ‘structural causal-
ity’, cannot be explained on the economic level alone. But it is
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Value Form and Surplus Value
essentially the same as the shorter cycle. It, too, should be seen as a
part of the process to drastically improve the organic composition of
capital. Certainly, the advent of the longer cycle might be said to indi-
cate that the capitalist economy had begun a new stage. Nevertheless,
this new stage is nothing that goes beyond the recognition of capital-
ism presented in Capital, namely, the limit of the capitalist economy.
6.5 The Global Nature of Capitalism
Industrial capital, as Marx says, subordinates other kinds of capital,
and reorganizes them as parts of itself. “The varieties of capital
which appeared previously, within past or declining conditions of
social production, are not only subordinated to [industrial capital]
and correspondingly altered in the mechanism of their functioning,
but they now move only on its basis, thus live and die, stand and fall
together with this basis. Money capital and commodity capital, in so
far as they appear and function as bearers of their own peculiar
branches of business alongside industrial capital, are now only
modes of existence of the various functional forms that industrial
capital constantly assumes and discards within the circulation sphere,
forms which have been rendered independent and one-sidedly ex-
tended through social division of labor.”
In consequence, mer-
chant capital becomes commercial capital that takes partial charge
of industrial capital’s activities. It was this phenomenon that made
classical economists belittle merchant capital.
Industrial capital supersedes other capitals, because “[i]ndustrial
capital is the only mode of existence of capital in which not only the
appropriation of surplus-value or surplus-product, but also its cre-
ation, is a function of capital. It thus requires production to be capi-
talist in character . . .”
The movement of industrial capital drives
capitalist society to incessant technological innovation. Yet this does
not prevent industrial capital from striving for earning surplus value
from spatial difference as well. In fact industrial capital has always
been doing this; and without it, cannot survive. Industrial capital is a
variant of merchant capital that earns surplus value from the differ-
ence of the spatial systems it creates. For instance, capitals today
travel around the world looking for cheaper labor power.
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I insist on seeing industrial capital as a variant of merchant capi-
tal, rather than elaborating its distinction from merchant capital.
Capital—no matter what kind—gains surplus value from the dif-
ference of value systems, yet this essential nature is theoretically
repressed. Industrial capital as well as the theorists who support it re-
pressed their essential sameness by marginalizing merchant capital
and mercantilism.
Industrial capital or the capitalist mode of pro-
duction was begun by those merchant capitalists who were compet-
ing in the mercantilist international trade; by that time, commercial
credit, bank credit, and stock companies had already been estab-
Industrial capital’s reformation of the world notwithstanding,
however, the capitalist mode of commodity production—in distinc-
tion from commodity production in general—was and is only par-
tial, and its percentage within the whole of production is small. The
majority of production, be it commodity production or noncom-
modity production, is still noncapitalist. In the future, too, it is
impossible that all production becomes capitalist through and
through. Why then could this partial capitalist mode of production
overpower the globe? Only thanks to the global nature of the com-
modity economy that interconnects the whole of products and
production, namely, the global nature of money.
Marx saw the ‘historical premise’ for modern capitalism in the ad-
vent of the world market. “The circulation of commodities is the start-
ing point of capital. The production of commodities and their
circulation in its developed form, namely trade, form the historic pre-
suppositions under which capital arises. World trade and the world
market date from the sixteenth century, and from then on the mod-
ern history of capital starts to unfold.”
The formation of the world
market really means that the spheres of the commodity economy that
had existed as fragments in different parts of the world came to be
connected. In the concrete, this means that the world currency system
was established by gold and silver; thereupon grounded was the mer-
cantilism that accumulated gold and silver as the means of interna-
tional liquidation. World money [Weltgelt] encompassed communities,
which had been isolated in autarky. Since then, no matter what peo-
ple of communities the world over wanted, or, in other words, even
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Value Form and Surplus Value
though their lives were not always carried on within the commodity
economy, their products came to be virtually and forcibly posited in the
chain of the global commodity economy. For world money, there was
no longer any exteriority that went beyond it. It is at this moment that
capitalism was established as ‘world capitalism’.
What Immanuel Wallerstein calls the “modern world system”
began, in reality, within the international credit system of merchant
capital. Even absolutist monarchical states had no choice but to op-
erate in and with it; it was rather engendered by its compelling pres-
ence. So-called ‘primitive accumulation’—which separated labor
power from means of production and commodified land—was ren-
dered by the absolutist monarchical state; but this whole thing oc-
curred within and was provoked by the competition for international
trade. The capitalist mode of commodity production in England was
commenced by merchant capital fighting the international trade
war in order to compete with foreign noncapitalist commodity pro-
ductions. But this particular mode of production has not decom-
posed all conventional forms of production and will not. It simply
provides a fictitious institution to noncapitalist modes of production—
as if they were fully capitalist enterprises—and marginalizes them. In
consequence, capitalist modes of production, though partial, seem
to be omnipotent.
Seeing capitalism from the specificity of industrial capitalism
alone often results in repressing the premises of capital’s historicity,
and equally crucially, the total picture of how the capitalist mode of
production coexists with the noncapitalist mode of production in
mutual reciprocity. As I said in chapter 5, Marx reflected upon the
establishment of the average rate of profit from the vantage point of
how total surplus value is distributed to unequally developing indus-
trial branches. But, to be more precise and thorough, the branches
of noncapitalist production must be included in this scheme. First,
thinking about the situation within a nation-state, the businesses of
many branches of self-employed farmers and independent small
producers do not achieve an average rate of profit; they have little
consciousness of the rate of profit as such. They sustain their sim-
ple reproduction by introducing their own and their family mem-
bers’ labor power. They own their means of production and are not
6715 CH06 UG 1/29/03 8:01 PM Page 253
proletariat; thus they even have pride of a petit-bourgeois kind. Nev-
ertheless they are the kind of people who are, though indirectly, ex-
ploited even more than the proletariat. Also these branches play the
role of storing the relative surplus population (qua the industrial re-
serve army) that increases in number as the organic composition of
capital rises. During times of prosperity, the necessary labor power is
mobilized from them.
Notwithstanding the persisting signs that the capitalist mode of
production is about to decompose all other modes of production, it
is not and never will be the case. Rather the capitalist mode of pro-
duction seeks to conserve and make use of them, and the proletariat
is no exception. Wallerstein says: “I do not tell you anything novel to
say that, in historical capitalism, there has been increasing proletari-
anization of the workforce. The statement is not only not novel; it is
in the least surprising. The advantages to producers of the process
of proletarianization have been amply documented. What is surpris-
ing is not that there has been so much proletarianization, but that
there has been so little. Four hundred years at least into the exis-
tence of a historical social system, the amount of fully proletarian-
ized labor in the capitalist world-economy today cannot be said to
total even fifty per cent.”
The majority of wage workers are not
those fully defined proletariats who are, as Marx claims, “[f]ree
workers in the double sense,”
(the double sense means that they
do not own any means of production, and they are free from various
traditional binds derived from the precapitalist means of production,
as would be the case with slaves, serfs, etc.) but semi-proletariats who
belong to households whose members share incomes from the vari-
ous jobs they get whenever possible. In the households of the semi-
proletariat, everyone shares everybody else’s income. This kind of
mutual aid is not exchange, but based upon the same compelled
reciprocity of gift and return that I observed before. Which also
means that they are bound by the traditions and orders of commu-
nity (more than an urban population). And if I think about it, an
element of noncapitalist reciprocity remains even in the most ad-
vanced sectors of capitalist development. Even after the traditional
communities have for the most part decomposed, remnants of them
still exist in family relationships.
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Value Form and Surplus Value
Why on earth are premodern production and relations of produc-
tion preserved in advanced capitalist countries? This is an in-
tractable problem the world over (outside the most advanced sectors
of England and North America). In prewar Japan, there was a fa-
mous uproar called the “Japan Capitalism Debate” or the “Feudal
System Debate,” which involved quite a few scholars of the time. The
title specifying Japan notwithstanding, this problem is not peculiar
to Japan, it is universal. (The same type of problematic—as to
whether or not the societies in Latin America are feudal—reap-
peared in the argument between Ernst Laclau and Immanuel
Wallerstein in the 1970s.) In the Japan Capitalism Debate, one
school Koza-ha maintained that in Japanese society, where (extra-
economic) feudal domination presided over by the emperor
[Tenno] system remained deeply embedded, the primary task was a
bourgeois revolution against feudalism. The opposition school Rono-
ha insisted that Japanese society was already amidst a fully developed
capitalist economy; what appeared to be feudal dominion in agricul-
tural districts was in fact already a form of modern landholding
wherein the farm rent overheated because of competition between
the overpopulation of tenant farmers coming from cities as relative
surplus population. In such a situation, the hierarchy in rural areas
appeared to be even more feudal, which however was really a prod-
uct of the capitalist economy; and even that phenomenon would
eventually disappear.
At a glance, the latter position seems to be more realistic. This,
however, contained the problematic determinism that all underde-
veloped capitalist nation-states would repeat the same developmen-
tal pattern as Britain, the model of Capital—and overlooked the
crucial fact that both developed and underdeveloped nation-states
coexisted in the synchronic relation of world capitalism. Meanwhile,
stressing the feudal remnants, the former school at least conceived
of a theoretical stance that could question the simplistic economic de-
terminism and objectify the formation of political and mythological
power—the so-called superstructure. The problematic of analyzing
the Japanese specificity was then succeeded in the postwar climate by
some leftist critics (such as Masao Maruyama and Takaaki Yoshi-
moto) as, most eminently, the enigma of Emperor fascism: Why
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primeval, mythological elements function in highly advanced indus-
trial capitalist societies. For this endeavor, they introduced methods
of political science and anthropology, and so forth, domains outside
conventional Marxist doctrines. This somewhat corresponded to
the agendas of the Western Marxists who struggled under Fascism
during the 1930s; Gramsci, for instance, who came to pay utmost at-
tention to cultural hegemony, and the Frankfurt School, which in-
troduced psychoanalysis into its analysis of power. As a general
tendency, Marxists paid attention to the relative autonomy of super-
structure because of their belief that this intervention would finally
compensate Marx’s theoretical shortcomings. As I mentioned ear-
lier, however, Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte had al-
ready revealed the mechanism of Bonapartism (qua the prototype
of fascism)—how it came into existence out of the complex of coex-
isting advanced industrial capitalism and conventional relations of
production and class structure—by way of analyzing the every mech-
anism of the representation [Darstellung] and representative system
[Vertretung]. Thus the idea that the advent of Fascism in the 1930s
brought something novel—against which Marx’s analysis was
obsolete—was finally wrong. The idea only proved that Marx had
not been read closely enough.
It is now necessary to shift our problematic: the issue of why
primeval, mythological elements function in highly advanced indus-
trial capitalist societies should be grasped—not as the relative auton-
omy of superstructure—but in the framework of why high industrial
capitalization does not entirely decompose the conventional rela-
tions of production, and rather conserves them for its own use;
namely, it should be grasped as an immanent problem of capitalism.
For instance, in 1935 Kozo Uno made an important observation
when criticizing both sides of the “Japan Capitalism Debate.” The
following is a rough summary of his point. The process of capitalist
development in underdeveloped countries that had begun capital-
ization in the stage of imperialism was inexorably different from the
process of British development. Forced to undertake a quick capital-
ist development by the pressure of advanced strong states, they had
to proceed with the concentration of capital by adopting state pro-
tectionist policies and the stock system. They sought to shape up the
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Value Form and Surplus Value
institutions of financial capitalism while importing the form of large
mechanical industry. Since the new state-supported heavy industries
did not absorb much labor population, however, a large amount of
relative surplus population went back to or remained in agricultural
districts. This invited an overheating of farm rent, and resulted in
preserving various institutions that kept feudal features. So it was
that this was the result of a development of industrial capitalism
rather than backwardness. Thus, it was possible that, while heavy in-
dustrialization was going on, feudal remnants were reinforced and
premodern representations were created. In short, countries did not
follow the course that Great Britain had gone through. Therefore,
both developed and underdeveloped countries have to be seen in
the “synchronic structure of world capitalism.”
Also, as we shall see
later, here one must recognize the autonomous being of the state,
independent from capital.
The Marx of Capital did not tackle this problem head-on, but his
account of the price of production implied the answer. He began
this account from the fact that industrial branches with different
productivities coexist. Concerning the average rate of profit and the
price of production, Marx stressed that, when these industrial
branches with difference coexist in equilibrium, the more produc-
tive branches are depriving others of surplus value. Herein exists the
reason why the capitalist mode of production, albeit partial, be-
comes dominant. And this is the crux of what is called exploitation.
The surplus value in the capitalist mode of production is attained by
technological innovation (or improvement of the productivity of
labor); but this is via the difference that is made not only from the
extra profit within the same branches, but also from the gap with
other branches of production.
These considerations have been made exclusively within the
model of a nation-state, yet the whole scheme can and should be
applied to the world market. So now I will take up the case of world
trading, which has so far been bracketed, for “[c]apitalist produc-
tion never exists without foreign trade.”
The industrial revolution
centered on cotton manufacturing in England occurred not because
of an impetus of the domestic market, but due to the mercantilist
struggle over international hegemony. In this climate, Ricardo
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objected to mercantilist profit making from foreign trade and the
protective tariff constituted for it, with the conviction that free trade
would result in mutual profit. This was based upon his theory of
“comparative costs”: In the total production cost in each country, the
production branches of which productivity is comparatively high,
namely, of which commodities are produced with less labor input,
are naturally specialized into exportation branches; and the interna-
tional relation of specialization is formed between these branches.
This was, however, little more than an ideology of Great Britain-as-
factory-of-the-world, that made all other countries suppliers of raw
material. Ricardo explained the mutual benefit of world specializa-
tion citing examples of England (cotton fabric) and Portugal
(wine). But he was wrong. It is a historical fact that, thanks to this
very structure, Portugal turned into an agricultural country subordi-
nated to English industrial capitalism. What is more, consider the
England/India relation. Up until the end of the eighteenth century,
Indian cotton products had been overpowering English textile in-
dustries. As a countermeasure, Great Britain began to raise tariffs
against Indian products to protect national manufacturers. Then,
after the success of the industrial revolution, at the point when the
price of English products got cheaper, she began to advocate free
The result was the destruction of traditional Indian manual
labor industries. This was far from the result of free trade; it was a di-
rect result of the politico-military colonial domination that forbade
India from claiming her own tariff rights. The lesson from this his-
tory is that liberalism was, despite its appearance to the contrary, a
variant of mercantilism. The liberalism of classical economics took
for granted Great Britain as the factory of the world, while forcing
all other countries to be suppliers of raw material. It was only a mat-
ter of course that the other regions of the world had to reform
themselves as modern nation-states—with the claim that sovereignty
is equal to the right to impose tariffs—and promoted state-owned
industrial production. And those nation-states that succeeded with
heavy industrialization managed to escape colonial domination. It
follows that the origin of nationalism was economic, par excellence.
Both Smith and Ricardo were against colonialism—but less be-
cause of their opposition to the robbing of colonies than because
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Value Form and Surplus Value
they represented the interests of Great Britain, the factory of the
world, to which the enclosure of colonies by other strong European
states was the only obstacle. Still today, Ricardo’s concepts of com-
parative advantage and international specialization are popular
among neoliberal economists. As opposed to this, Arghiri Emmanuel
argued that the exchange between the core and colonies on the
world market inexorably renders unequal exchange, and once this
begins, the result is cumulative. Samir Amin attributed the cause of
underdeveloped countries remaining underdeveloped to the un-
equal exchange and dependency practiced in the guise of comparative
advantage and international specialization. Surprisingly, before the
industrial revolution in England, there had not been so much differ-
ence in economic and technological advancement between Europe
and non-Europe (especially Asia). The underdevelopment of the lat-
ter was produced, quite recently, after the advent of industrial capi-
talism. In the rough, their claims are right. Nonetheless, to my
position, they are too much based upon the substantial labor theory
of value. Their position is like insisting: “la propriété, c’est le vol,”
without tackling the question of how surplus value (unequal
exchange) occurs in equal exchanges.
Wallerstein inherited a certain aspect of the dependency theory—
that capitalism should always be analyzed as a world economy,
instead of a national economy, because the national economy or na-
tion-state itself was engendered in the world market. However, the
standpoint of world capitalism was already given logically in Capital.
As opposed to Ricardo’s theory of international specialization, when
Marx tackled the nature of industrial capitalism with the problem-
atic views of world market and merchant capitalism, he already had
in mind what is referred to today as world capitalism. That is, in Cap-
ital, Marx dealt with not the English national economy but with
world capitalism. Here again Marx employed an antinomy: he once
said, “Capitalist production never exists without foreign trade,” but
soon after he said, “Bringing foreign trade into an analysis of the
value of the product annually reproduced can therefore only confuse
things, without supplying any new factor either to the problem or to
its solution. We therefore completely abstract from it here . . .”
contradiction can be solved if and only if we consider that Marx
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conceptually and methodologically internalized the world economy
within the national economy.
Capital took England as a model—
thus came the debate as to whether it could be applied to the other
more underdeveloped nations. Yet what Marx saw in and through
England was no less than the world economy. Marx carefully made
clear the way a national economy is formed by global forces.
In explaining the tendential fall in the rate of profit by the rise of
capital’s organic composition, Marx pointed out that it is prevented
by foreign trade:
In so far as foreign trade cheapens on the one hand the elements of con-
stant capital and on the other the necessary means of subsistence into
which variable capital is converted, it acts to raise the rate of profit by rais-
ing the rate of surplus-value and reducing the value of constant capital. It
has a general effect in this direction in as much as it permits the scale of
production to be expanded. In this way it accelerates accumulation, while it
also accelerates the fall in the variable capital as against the constant, and
hence the fall in the rate of profit. And whereas the expansion of foreign
trade was the basis of capitalist production in its infancy, it becomes the spe-
cific product of the capitalist mode of production as this progresses,
through the inner necessity of this mode of production and its need for
an ever extended market. Here again we can see the same duality of effect.
(Ricardo completely overlooked this aspect of foreign trade.)
There is a further question, whose specific analysis lies beyond the limits
of our investigation: is the general rate of profit raised by the higher
profit rate made by capital invested in foreign trade, and colonial trade in
Capital invested in foreign trade can yield a higher rate of profit, firstly,
because it competes with commodities produced by other countries with
less developed production facilities, so that the more advanced country sells
its goods above their value, even though still more cheaply than its competi-
tors. In so far as the labor of the more advanced country is valorized here as
labor of a higher specific weight, the profit rate rises, since labor that is not
paid as qualitatively higher is nevertheless sold as such. The relationship
may hold towards the country to which goods are exported and from which
goods are imported: i.e. such a country gives more objectified labor in kind
than it receives, even though it still receives the goods in question more
cheaply than it could produce them itself. In the same way, a manufacturer
who makes use of a new discovery before this has become general sells
more cheaply than his competitors and yet still sells above the individual
value of his commodity, valorizing the specifically higher productivity of the
labor he employs as surplus labor. He thus realizes a surplus profit. As far as
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Value Form and Surplus Value
capital invested in colonies, etc. is concerned, however, the reason why this
can yield higher rates of profit is that the profit rate is generally higher
there on account of the lower degree of development, and so too is the
exploitation of labor, through the use of slaves and coolies, etc. . . .
But this same foreign trade develops the capitalist mode of production at
home, and hence promotes a decline in variable capital as against constant,
though it also produces overproduction in relation to the foreign country,
so that it again has the opposite effect in the further course of development.
We have shown in general, therefore, how the same causes that bring
about a fall in general rate of profit provoke counter-effects that inhibit this
fall, delay it and in part even paralyze it. These do not annul the law, but
they weaken its effect. If this were not the case, it would not be the fall in
the general rate of profit that was incomprehensible, but rather the relative
slowness of this fall.
Here Marx shows us that the tendential fall in the rate of profit is
inevitable within a system (a nation-state). The tendential fall in the
rate of profit is not a problem that arose anew in the stage of imperi-
alism that developed heavy industry. From the beginning, “[c]apital-
ist production never exists without foreign trade.” Marx thought,
from early on, that industrial capitalism did not exist without the
world market. Why then did he take the trouble of such a detour—
enfolding the world economy into the English economy—instead of
directly tackling the world economy? To this day this remains one of
the most troubling enigmas of Capital. I believe it was because he
had to negate the stereotypical view that grasps world capitalism just
as an aggregate of individual national economies. The point is that
no single national economy could be autonomous; no matter how
hard it resists, it is inexorably combined into the system of world
Now seen from the paradoxical view of nation-world, wherein the
products of various countries are internalized, the issue of unequal
exchange by foreign trade can be transposed back to the branches
within a national economy that have different organic compositions.
As I have already mentioned, total surplus value is distributed to
the capitals with the higher organic composition—as the average
rate of profit or the price of production. Only in this manner is it
possible to see that under the free trade that Ricardo advocated—
namely, specialization by comparative advantage and international
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specialization—surplus value is transferred (exploited) from the
margin to the center via the ‘fair trade’ at the price of production.
Facing the problem as to why and how the general rate of profit can
be established among different branches of production, it must be
said, Marx was already dealing with it on the level of world capital-
ism. With respect to the uneven development, Wallerstein says:
Core and periphery, then, are simply phrased to locate one crucial part of
the system of surplus appropriation by the bourgeoisie. To oversimplify,
capitalism is a system in which the surplus-value of the proletarian is appro-
priated by the bourgeois. When this proletarian is located in a different
country from this bourgeois, one of the mechanisms that has affected the
process of appropriation is the manipulation of controlling flows over state
boundaries. This results in patterns of ‘uneven development’ which are
summarized in the concepts of core, semiperiphery and periphery. This is an
intellectual tool to help analyze the multiple forms of class conflict in the
capitalist world-economy.
However, in this unequal exchange, is there any one particularly
‘insidious operation’? There is no conundrum here. It appears enig-
matic only because one considers industrial capital to be different
from merchant capital. As I mentioned, merchant capital practices
equal exchange in individual systems, yet the difference between sys-
tems itself earns the surplus value; and industrial capital, too, earns
surplus value from the difference between systems—by temporally
differentiating systems. In the stage of merchant capital, the uneven
development between regions was conditioned sheerly by the nat-
ural environment. But the intervention of industrial capital changed
the condition: With the exchange of industrial products, the prod-
ucts of nonindustrial nations were forced to specialize—namely, in
raw materials—which brought about unevenness. Ever since, this
unevenness has been reproduced every day.
Since as early as the late nineteenth century, Marx’s prospects—
the tendential fall in the rate of profit, the impoverishment of the
proletariat, and the polarization of classes—have been questioned
and criticized as unrealistic. It was true that British workers achieved
a certain leeway counter to Marx’s law of impoverishment. But this
does not disprove his analysis, because British capital gained surplus
value from foreign trade, which was redistributed to the compatriot
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Value Form and Surplus Value
workers to a certain extent. That is to say that the impoverishment
occurred less within one nation-state, namely, Great Britain, than to
people abroad. And, of course, this is still going on: More than half
the population of earth is experiencing famine. Previously, I said
that surplus value can be detected on the level of total social capital
rather than on the level of individual capitals; and in this context,
the level should be further upgraded from that of a nation-state to
total world capital. Capital is truly “A Critique of Political Economy”
because it sought to grasp capitalism from the stance of world
capitalism beyond a polis (nation-state).
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7.1 The State, Capital, and Nation
My emphasis on Marx’s retrospective query into merchant capital
(M-C-MЈ) does not suggest that the development of capitalism since
the nineteenth century can be ignored. It is totally the opposite. In
order to see the development clearly, the retrospective query was im-
perative. Rather it was the ideology of industrial capitalism—upon
which classical Marxism was based—that was the very obstacle to our
seeing the peculiarity of the development of contemporary capital-
ism. And the retrospective or belated query was the method of undo-
ing this bind. Capital has been rebuked as having become obsolete in
the epoch since it was written, while efforts to ‘renovate it creatively’
have been ongoing among Marxists. My attempt in writing this book
is unrelated to those efforts: It is a return to Capital once more to
read in it the potential that has been overlooked. By no means could
Marx have taken into consideration such recent events as imperial-
ism, joint stock companies (apropos separation between capital and
management), financial capital, and Keynesianism. But, was their
novelty so fundamental that Marx could not even have imagined
them? I would say no—as precisely presented in Capital, they had al-
ready existed as form, if not substance, even before the advent of in-
dustrial capitalism. Lenin maintained that imperialism had begun in
the late nineteenth century, the age of financial capital that was epit-
omized by the exportation of capital. But financial capital, the type
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that assumes adhesion between usurers’ capital or loan capital
(i.e., a bank) and monopolistic industrial capital, had already ex-
isted as form at the stage of mercantilism. And imperialism sensu
strictu had existed since the age of mercantilism= absolute monar-
chy. In contrast to the imperialism of ancient and medieval empires,
it was already based upon the principles of the commodity economy.
All in all, British liberalism was established upon the spoils of impe-
rialism of the age of mercantilism. If so, the stage of imperialism
should be seen not as a development of the stage of liberalism, but
as a return of the repressed (by the atmosphere of liberalism) of
To nineteenth-century Marxists, such phenomena as the domina-
tion of financial capital and imperialism appeared as drastically novel,
because they were deeply affected by classical economics qua an ideol-
ogy of industrial capitalism (despite their stress on Marx as a critic of
classical economics). Along with the establishment of industrial capi-
talism and with the thoughts of classical economics, the preceding
forms were deeply buried. The ideology of industrial capitalism—
namely, that which Max Weber highly appreciated as The Protestant
Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism—is still living today. When something
occurs to counter them, it is represented as a drastic shift. For instance,
situations such as the recent casino capitalism or the e-trade phenome-
non seem to indicate that people no longer believe in the rewards of
diligent production and fair exchange, but rush toward difference by
way of merchant capitalist investment. As is evident, this is not a major
change in capitalism. Marx had already observed it in his lifetime: “All
nations characterized by the capitalist mode of production are periodi-
cally seized by fits of giddiness in which they try to accomplish the
money-making without the mediation of the production process.”
Marx’s Capital is much more adequate to today’s situation, often
called neoliberalist, than the innumerable theories developed in
tandem with the ‘new’ situations that have arisen since it was writ-
ten. But this ‘foresight’ is owed less to Marx’s intention to see the
future than to his return to the archi-form of capitalism that had al-
ready existed before the establishment of industrial capitalism.
The capitalist economy is customarily subdivided along historical
stages: mercantilism, liberalism, imperialism, and late capitalism.
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This view appears to be correct in terms of articulating the
dominant tendencies, nevertheless it is wrong to think that some fun-
damental shift occurred between the stages. For instance, the fact
that the bulk of the labor market has moved from hard to soft labor—
from physical to service and sales departments—or that intellectual
labor such as information administration has become more crucial
to the whole operation is considered a marker of “late capitalism.”
Meanwhile, returning to Marx’s rhetoric, one immediately discovers
that he employed the term industrial in a much broader manner.
[I]ndustrial [is used] here in the sense that it encompasses every branch of
production that is pursued on a capitalist basis. . . . There are however par-
ticular branches of industry in which the product of the production process
is not a new objective product, a commodity. The only one of these that is
economically important is the communication industry, both the transport
industry proper, for moving commodities and people, and the transmission
of mere information—letters, telegrams, etc. . . . The useful effect pro-
duced is inseparably connected with the transport process, i.e., the produc-
tion process specific to the transport industry.
In this sense, capital does not care whether it gets surplus value from
solid object or fluid information. So it is that the nature of capital is
consistent even before and after its dominant production branch
shifted from heavy industry to the information industry. It lives on
by the difference. And as the father of cybernetics, Norbert Wiener,
suggested, information is originally nothing but difference.
The most crucial point of distinction for Marx is the one between
production in general and value production; value productivity is
not determined by what it produces, but by whether or not it pro-
duces difference. Accordingly, it is incorrect to say that the shift of the
main labor types is parallel to the shift of the forms of capitalist pro-
duction. Mark Poster posed the concept of “the mode of informa-
tion” as opposed to Marx’s “mode of production” in his Foucault,
Marxism, and History.
This is another attempt to revise historical mate-
rialism that persistently sees history from the vantage point of produc-
tion; it cannot be a critical comment on Capital, which is originally an
inquiry into the forces with which capitalist production qua the pro-
duction of information (difference) organizes society. Another
group of Marxists has paid utmost attention to the diversification of
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commodity production in consumer society and especially its ‘fasci-
nating’ effects, as if they were the cornerstones to revising the world-
view of Capital. In reference to Walter Benjamin’s phrase “[n]ovelty
is a quality independent of the intrinsic value of the commodity,”
for instance, they seek to discover an autonomous domain in cul-
tural production. From my stance, however, novelty is little more
than a synonym for information qua difference. What capital has to
produce from the beginning are not products in and of themselves,
but, more crucially, value (and surplus value). From the vantage
point that surplus value is attained by the production of difference,
the drive for novelty does not offer any ‘new’ recognition. To tackle
capital, hence, one always has to think from the formula of mer-
chant capital: M-C-MЈ. This approach would reveal that the so-called
development of industrial capitalism in stages is nothing but the “re-
turn of the repressed” of the archi-form of capitalism.
Wallerstein’s theory of the modern world system is important
insofar as it posed an alternative to the view that sees the world econ-
omy simply as the relationality and aggregate of national economies.
Yet at the same time, it appears epoch-making only because main-
stream Marxism has interpreted Marx’s thought as if it were an ex-
tension of national economics (the economics of polis) and not as
its critic that he was. Classical economists (liberalists) have been dis-
avowing their own origin—the amalgamation of mercantilists and
absolutist monarchy—and insisting on the separation of economy
from state power. This is a repression of the historical origin in a
double sense. As I have already mentioned, the capitalist mode of
production commenced within the mercantilist state thanks to its in-
vestment and protection. In the latecomer capitalist states (such as
Germany, France, and Japan) in the nineteenth century, there was
state intervention in the economy; however, even in England, the in-
dustrial revolution took place thanks to the backup of the state as it
sought to grasp world hegemony. The liberalists forgot this fact and
described the world as if the capitalist economy had come into exis-
tence sui generis, independent from the state, and continued to
exist as such. Wallerstein’s concept of the modern world system thus
indicates, in our context, that at the fountainhead of modernity
there existed the absolutist-mercantilist state qua economic system,
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and this has not changed since. Nation-states, no matter how democratic
and industrial-capitalist-like to insiders, are absolutist-mercantilist
par excellence to outsiders. What is called liberalism is also a form of
the absolutist-mercantilist agenda, an economic policy that hege-
monic states always adopt.
In Capital, Marx bracketed the matter of state, which however
does not mean that he overlooked the existence of the state. The
primary task of Capital was to grasp the principles of capital’s move-
ment, counter to and as a critique of German mercantilist state
economists (those whom Marx called the vulgar economists).
Thereby Marx bracketed the existence of the state methodologi-
cally, because state intervention—especially since the absolutist
state—is bound by the principles of the capitalist economy; because
extra-economic compulsion does not work in this context. In this re-
spect, the absolutist state diverged from the feudal state, where the
economic and the political had not been separated. Nonetheless,
saying this does not deny the fact that the state is based on a different
principle of exchange (plunder/redistribution) from that of the cap-
italist market economy; therefore, one has to acknowledge its auton-
omy to a large extent—and this in a different sense from the relative
autonomy of superstructure that derived from historical materialism.
The fact that Capital lacks a theory of state has made Marxists ei-
ther gloss over it or return to pre-Capital accounts of it. It is generally
understood that early Marx grasped the state as an ‘imagined com-
munity’, while middle Marx considered it as a device for class domi-
nation. But in his The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, there is a
deeper understanding vis-à-vis the state than in either of these exam-
ples. Then, how did the Marx of Capital think of the state? The an-
swer to this question is not found by collecting bits and pieces of his
account of state in Capital, nor in his theories of state in his earlier
work. That is, we have to construct a new theory of state by applying
Marx’s method in Capital. In order to tackle the capitalist economy,
Marx returned from liberalism to mercantilism, from industrial capi-
tal to merchant capital. In order for us to tackle the state, we have to
return to the previous stage of the bourgeois constitution.
In this retrospective approach, however, we must be wary of not
returning to a past too distant, namely, feudal states and Asiatic
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 269
despotic states.
We should return as far as the modern absolutist
monarchical states. It is said that in absolutist monarchies, the eco-
nomic and the political merged. But, to be more precise, in this
stage, they were first split and then recombined, whereas in the
feudal state, they had been one and the same. This separation/
combination signifies in the concrete that the absolutist monarchy
supported the activities of merchant bourgeoisie, and at the same
time was ensured a source of tax from them. This is ‘mercantilism’
as economic policy, and ‘bullionism’—inasmuch as the policy relied
on gold qua ‘world money [Weltgeld]’—as the means of interna-
tional settlement. The absolutist monarchy lifted the feudal ‘extra-
economic compulsion’, and transformed feudal dominion into
private property, by suppressing the innumerable feudal lords stand-
ing in a row waiting their turns. Furthermore, it imposed the com-
modity economy onto the agrarian community by way of monetary
taxing. By these measures, the absolutist monarchy accelerated the
bourgeois reform of the feudal economy. It is this process, called
‘primitive accumulation’, that was nurtured amid the competition
among states within world capitalism.
Thus the amalgamation of absolutist state and mercantilism. In
England, at the point in time when the absolutist monarchy was
overthrown and industrial capitalism/liberalism was established,
economy and state were represented as two separate things. But in
fact, their deep bondage did not disappear. Liberalists insisted that
state and government should be smaller; but, as I have said, this was
a pretext to promote the temporary economic policy of the British
Empire, which was, from the beginning, an unrealistic, ostentatious
propaganda of an empire with immense foreign colonies. At the
same time, outside England, the tight bondage between state and
economy was (and continues to be) omnipresently observed among
latecomers to capitalism. The state is essentially mercantilist; Marx’s
reflections on mercantilism conversely shed light on what the state
is. Marx pointed to the fact that in bullionism the ‘fetishism of
money’ appeared symptomatically, while, elsewhere, he commented
that classical economists suddenly went back to bullionism in times
of crisis. This account can transcritically be applied to the theory
of state.
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In the bourgeois democratic state, it is so defined that sovereignty
is in the people, and the government is their representative; here
the idea that an absolutist monarch equals sovereignty is already ob-
solete. But finally this may not be the case. For instance, Carl
Schmitt, the thinker of the Weimar Republic, questioned this, claim-
ing that while it seems that there is no sovereign ruler when we
think within the state, the sovereignty as the ultimate decision maker
is revealed in extreme cases: that is, during wars.
This same theory
later made Schmitt a supporter of Hitler, a sovereign ruler who
made ‘extreme’ decisions. But Schmitt’s account contains an unde-
niably important issue. In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,
what Marx tackled was the same problem; he analyzed the process
by which Bonaparte could appear as a sovereign who made deci-
sions. What he elucidated here is the conjuncture where the ‘state it-
self’ appears in the crises of representative parliament and capitalist
The monarch/king as sovereign in the absolutist monarchy was al-
ready different in nature from the feudal king. In this system, the
monarch/king could technically be anyone who sat in the place.
What Marx called fetishism was the obsessive idea that confuses gold
itself with currency, even though gold becomes money only
inasmuch as it is posited in general equivalent form. He spoke of it
in a striking manner, using metaphors of king and subjects. “Deter-
minations of reflection [Reflexionsbestimmungen] of this kind are alto-
gether very curious. For instance, one man is king only because
other men stand in relation of subjects to him. They, on the other
hand, imagine that they are subjects because he is king.”
metaphors are in a strange way more than metaphors, and perfectly
appropriate to absolutist monarchy. In the same way that bullionism
was denounced as illusion by classical economists, the absolutist
monarchy was denounced by democratic ideologues. After absolutist
monarchy as a system disappeared, however, the place remained as
an empty lot. The bourgeois revolution guillotined the king, but the
place of the king itself could not be erased. In the normal situation
and/or within the nation-state, this is invisible. But in extreme cases,
that is, crises or wars, the topos itself is manifest, gulping various
agents: military dictators, liberalists, socialists, and so on.
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Enter Thomas Hobbes (whom Schmitt reveres). In order to define
sovereign, Hobbes conceptualized a process by which everyman trans-
fers his Right of Nature to a single man (Leviathan). This is isomor-
phic to the process by which every commodity establishes a mutual
relationship via money qua a commodity placed in the position of
equivalent form. Hobbes in a sense took in advance Marx’s descrip-
tion: “Finally, the last form, C, gives to the world of commodities
a general social relative form of value, because, and in so far as, all
commodities except one are thereby excluded from the equivalent
So it might be said that Hobbes thought of the principle of
state from the vantage point of the commodity economy. He was the
first person who discovered the fact that the sovereign—like money—
exists in its form (position) rather than in its person/substance.
Hobbes wrote Leviathan in the midst of the Puritan Revolution. So
it was not in the least that he sought to ground the absolutist monar-
chy of the previous age. The absolutist monarch was ideally based
upon the divine rights of kings; this is equal to the idea that a king
rules his subjects because he is a king. On the other hand, Hobbes’s
position of social contract was not proper for the absolutist monar-
chy; his theory in fact worked well with the assembly of constitu-
tional monarchy after the Glorious Revolution. Why then does he
seem like a theorist of the absolutist state? Because he stressed the
concept of ‘sovereign’. Yet, as a point of fact, I should acknowledge
that he stressed not the existence of the person of the sovereign
but the fact that the place of the sovereign (qua state) remains inso-
far as there can be no social contract among states that transcends it.
Even though absolutist monarchical kings disappeared thanks to the
Puritan Revolution, the position of sovereign remained. That was
the corresponding fact. After all, the sovereignty of state is a sheer
position, and the one who is placed in it is the sovereign. After the
Glorious Revolution, the constitutional monarchy came into exis-
tence. Nevertheless, the position of the sovereign has remained,
even under the republican system. The position of the sovereign, or
the state itself, should be distinguished from the particular king or
president who occupies it.
Those thinkers who came after the constitutional monarchy,
namely, John Locke and David Hume, tended to identify the state
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with the government—that which consists of members of parliament
who are elected by the people. This collapse is similar to that made by
classical economists, who reduced ‘money’ to the labor-value internal-
ized in commodities. Notwithstanding these respective identifications—
sovereignty with nation’s representatives and money with an index of
value—in exceptionally critical situations such as economic crises and
wars, the bare features of money and sovereignty are exposed.
Hegel spoke of Stände—Estates (as parliamentary institutions)—in
the constitutional monarchy system as follows:
. . . For the highest officials with the state necessarily have a more profound
and comprehensive insight into the nature of the state’s institutions and
needs, and are more familiar with its functions and more skilled in dealing
with them, so that they are able to do what is best even without the Estates, just
as they must continue to do what is best when the Estates are in session. . . .
. . . At the same time, this position means that they share the mediating
function of the organized power of the executive, ensuring on the one
hand that the power of the sovereign does not appear as an isolated
extreme—and hence simply as an arbitrary power of domination—and on
the other, that the particular interests of communities, corporations, and
individuals [Individuen] do not become isolated either. Or more important
still, they ensure that individuals do not present themselves as a crowd or
aggregate, unorganized in their opinions and volition, and do not become
a massive power in opposition to the organic state.
The determination of the Estates as an institution does not require them to
achieve optimum results in their deliberations and decisions on the busi-
ness of the state in itself, for their role in this respect is purely accessory. . . .
On the contrary, they have the distinctive function [Bestimmung] of ensur-
ing that, through their participation in [the government’s] knowledge, de-
liberations, and decisions on matters of universal concern, the moment of
formal freedom attains its right in relation to those members of civil society
who have no share in the government. In this way, it is first and foremost
the moment of universal knowledge [Kenntnis] which is extended by the
publicity with which the precedings of the Estates are conducted.
The provision of this opportunity of [acquiring] knowledge [Kenntnissen]
has the more universal aspect of permitting public opinion to arrive for the
first time at true thoughts and insight with regard to the condition and con-
cept of the state and its affairs, thereby enabling it to form more rational judge-
ments on the latter. In this way, the public also becomes familiar with, and
learns to respect, the functions, abilities, virtues, and skills of the official bod-
ies and civil servants. And just as such publicity provides a signal opportunity
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 273
for these abilities to develop, and offers them a platform on which they may
attain high honours, so also does it constitute a remedy for the self-conceit
of individuals and of the mass, and a means—indeed one of the most im-
portant means—of educating them.
To Hegel, the task of Estates is to rule civil society politically and
reinforce people’s knowledge of and respect for the government, at
the same time as achieving a consensus of civil society. But this posi-
tion cannot be attributed to Hegel’s negligence of parliamentary
democracy and the expression of the underdevelopment of Prussian
democracy. For the development of democracy is nothing but
the development of “educating [/ruling] them.” The idea of peo-
ple’s sovereignty was established along with the advent of universal
suffrage, though the “people” were no other than those who had
been educated/ruled by the state. As Stirner said, under these con-
ditions, individuals are not egoists (read sovereign). To see the par-
liamentary democracy—be it the constitutional monarchy or
republican system—as a process through which people’s opinions
are more fully represented is misleading. It is de facto little more
than the procedure by which to make what the bureaucrats deter-
mined appear to be the nation’s own decision. This is consistent or
even more persistent in the government of social democracy.
Young Marx criticized Hegel’s position. It was his belief that the
base was civil society (social state) and the political state was just a
self-alienated form of it. Nonetheless, what Marx called civil society
here was already that which had been articulated and reorganized
by the warring states. The citizens were already nations. Therefore,
even if the aspect of the political state were minimized or even elimi-
nated, the state would continue to remain within the civil society it-
self. The point of Stirner’s critique lay here. In this period, Marx
thought of ‘state’ without taking into consideration the existence of
other states. For this reason, he could not see the autonomy of the
state that could not be reduced to civil society. In fact, when he criti-
cized Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, he overlooked a crucial point that
Hegel raised: that the state (sovereignty) exists toward other states.
Hegel said:
This is internal sovereignty. The second aspect is external sovereignty (see
below)—In the feudal monarchy of earlier times, the state certainly had
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external sovereignty, but internally, neither the monarch himself nor the
state was sovereign. On the one hand . . . the particular functions and pow-
ers of the state and civil society were vested in independent corporations
and communities, so that the whole was more of an aggregate than an or-
ganism; and on the other hand, they [i.e. these functions and powers] were
the private property of individuals, so that what the latter had to do in rela-
tion to the whole was left to their own opinion and discretion. . . .
Swerving away from the Feuerbachian paradigm, Marx also swerved
away from his own earlier account of the state. This is evident in The
Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, where he reconsidered the
matter of the state from the aspects of monarchy, representative sys-
tem, bureaucratic system, and so forth. But in the end this book was
not written to address the theory of state, nor did Marx, even there-
after, ever tackle the issue of the state in its own right. Because of
this missing element, later Marxists had to resort to early Marx
and/or Engels, to reference the state issue.
Among them, and counter to Engels’s idea that a state is a violent
device for class domination, Antonio Gramsci emphasized the as-
pect that it is also an ideological apparatus. This is trying to say that
civil society itself is equal to a state (qua power apparatus) and at the
same time an apparatus of cultural hegemony. This was really a cri-
tique of the position that divides the state and civil society. I have to
claim, however, that his stance saw the state only from within,
thereby reducing it to civil society. In order to grasp the state as an
autonomous entity, we have to see it as existing in relationship with
other states. After Gramsci, the stance that sees the state in terms of
cultural hegemony was widespread; then, after Foucault the perspec-
tive that locates power omnipresently rather than in the center was
widespread. If we think of the state only within the state, there is no
visible center for power; and we can easily reduce state power to the
network of powers in ‘the state qua civil society’. But the truth is that
absolutist states appeared amid the competition with each other in
world capitalism, and are still amid the same competition. No matter
how social democratic the state appears within itself, it is hegemonic
to its exteriority—namely, even under the slogan of ‘humanitarian
I have already opposed the view that sees state and nation as super-
structure (in the architectonic duality with the base-economic
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 275
domain) and points out that they are two different types of
exchange (see section 5.3). According to my scheme, there are in
the strict sense four relations of exchange in the world. First, there is
reciprocity of gift and return (within agrarian communities). Sec-
ond, there are robbery and redistribution (between state and agrar-
ian communities). Third is commodity exchange. And the fourth is
association. Association is based on mutual aid like that found in tra-
ditional communities, yet it is not as closed. It is a network of volun-
tary exchange organized by those who have once left traditional
communities via the commodity economy. The four types of ex-
change can be illustrated as follows:
a plunder and redistribution b reciprocity of gift and return
c exchange by money d association
a feudal state b agrarian community
c city d association
a state b nation
c capital (market economy) d association
a equality b fraternity
c liberty d association
Lenin thought that nations were formed by unified markets in con-
sequence of the development of the capitalist economy. This obser-
vation is as confused as the prospect that the globalization of
capitalism will eventually terminate nations. Yet this confusion is not
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due to economic reductionism; it is due to overlooking the fact that
the nation is based on principles of exchange different from those
of state and capital. As opposed to the common Marxist view, an-
thropological and psychoanalytic approaches intervened later on,
cherishing as they did nation-as-superstructure. This tendency is
summarized by Benedict Anderson’s famous concept of “imagined
communities.” But it is impossible to posit, so simplistically, eco-
nomic domain as reality and nation as the imagined. The effect of
the enlightenment of such a thesis cannot go beyond the closure of
academics. The nation qua representation is certainly intensified by
education as well as by literature, but it cannot be annulled by the
critique of representation, for it does not exist in and by representa-
tion alone. Marx famously criticized those enlightened intellectuals
who disdained religion, claiming that there was a reality that re-
quired religion and that religion could not be abolished unless the
reality were changed. In the same way, there are nations and the re-
ality that requires nations. The nations would last unless those reali-
ties are solved.
Benedict Anderson said that the nation-state is a marriage of na-
tion and state that are originally different in kind.
This was
certainly an important suggestion. Yet it should not be forgotten
that there was previously another marriage of two entities that were
totally heterogeneous—that of state and capital. In the feudal ages,
state, capital, and nation were clearly separated. They existed dis-
tinctively as feudal states (lords, kings, and emperors), cities, and
agrarian communities, all based upon different principles of ex-
change. States were based upon the principles of plunder and redistri-
bution. The agrarian communities that were mutually disconnected
and isolated were dominated by states; but, within themselves, they
were autonomous, based upon the principles of mutual aid and reci-
procal exchange. Between these communities, markets or cities
grew; these were based on monetary exchange relying on mutual
consent. What crumbled the feudal system was the permeation of
the capitalist market economy. On the one hand, this engendered
absolutist monarchical states that conspired with the merchant class,
monopolized the means of violence by toppling feudal lords (aris-
tocracy), and finally abolished feudal domination (extra-economic
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 277
domination) entirely. This was the story of the wedding of state and
Feudal ground rent became national tax, while bureaucracy and
standing army became state apparatuses. Those who had belonged
to certain tribes, in certain clans, now became subjects under the ab-
solutist monarchy, grounding what would later be national identity.
Protected by the absolutist state, merchant capital (bourgeoisie)
grew up and nurtured the identity of the nation for the sake of cre-
ating a unified market. Yet this was not all in terms of the formation
of the nation. Agrarian communities that were decomposed along
with the permeation of market economy and by the urbanized cul-
ture of enlightenment always existed on the foundation of the na-
tion. While individual agrarian communities that had been autarkic
and autonomous were decomposed by the osmosis of money, their
communalities—mutual aid and reciprocity—themselves were re-
covered imaginarily within the nation.
Anderson points out that, after the decline of religion that used to
make sense of individuals’ death, the nation plays the proxy for it. In
this situation, what is important is the fact that religion had existed
as and in the agrarian community. The decline of religion is equal to
the decline of community. In contrast to what Hegel called the state
of understanding (lacking spirit), or the Hobbesian state, the nation
is grounded upon the empathy of mutual aid descending from
agrarian communities. And this emotion is awakened by national-
ism: belonging to the same nation and helping each other—the
emotion of mutual aid. And this nation is exclusive to other nations.
(My intention is not to understand nationalism from an emotional
viewpoint, though. For emotion is finally produced by the relation
of exchange. According to Nietzsche, the consciousness of Schuld
[guilt] derived from an economic principal—Schuld [debt]. The in-
debtedness is the kind that one feels toward gifts. Beneath emotion
lies the relation of exchange.) This is the so-called marriage of state
and nation.
It was amid the bourgeois revolution that these three were offi-
cially married. As in the trinity intoned in the French Revolution—
liberty, equality, and fraternity—capital, state, and nation copulated
and amalgamated themselves into a force that was inseparable ever
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after. Hence the modern state must be called, sensu stricto, the capi-
talist nation-state.
They were made to be mutually complementary,
reinforcing each other. When economic liberty becomes excessive
and class conflict is sharpened, the state intervenes to redistribute
wealth and regulate the economy, and at the same time, the emo-
tion of national unity (mutual aid) fills up the cracks. When facing
this fearless trinity, undermining one or the other does not work.
The French Revolution extolled liberty, equality, and fraternity.
The “equality” here was not limited to the equal right to liberty, but
practically meant the equality of wealth. In 1791, the Convention
Nationale interpreted equality as ‘equality of wealth’, and sought to
bring it about. This policy was terminated by Thermidor in 1793.
But the idea of the redistribution of wealth by the state remained.
This took hold as Saint-Simonism. Meanwhile, the “fraternity” signi-
fied the solidarity of citizens beyond nation and language. But then,
at the time of Napoleon, it came to mean the French nation. In this
manner, the ideal of “liberty, equality, and fraternity” turned into
the capitalist nation-state.
It was Hegel who grasped this collapse theoretically as the triad
system of philosophy [Dreieinigkeit]. On the one hand, he affirmed
the liberty of civil society as the system of desire, while, on the other
hand, he posited the state-bureaucratic system as reason that recti-
fies the inequality of the distribution of wealth. Furthermore, frater-
nity, to him, was equal to a nation that overcomes the contradiction
between liberty and equality. Finally, the state for Hegel was the po-
litical expression of the nation. Thus Hegel’s Philosophy of Right was
the most complete expression of the trinity of capitalist nation-state.
From this, one can draw everything else: liberalism, nationalism, the
accounts on the welfare state, Schmitt’s theory of sovereignty, and even
criticisms against them. Hence it is necessary to retackle the book in
order to grasp the crux to supersede the capitalist nation-state.
Marx’s critical work began with his accounts of Hegel’s Philosophy
of Right. Instead of being prematurely dropped, this concern was re-
ally raised to its completion in Capital. Employing the dialectic
method of description that he had once denied, Marx sought to illu-
minate the whole of the capitalist economy. Although in Capital one
finds no accounts of nation and state, there is a framework to grasp
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 279
everything (not only capital but also nation and state) as an eco-
nomic structure, namely, a form of exchange. Therefore, it is imper-
ative to reconsider Hegel’s Philosophy of Right from the vantage point
of Capital. It must be there that the escape from the trinity is found.
In Philosophy of Right, Hegel dialectically grasps the reciprocity of
capitalist nation-state that was already in place. Though he did not
describe the historical formation of the trinity, his model was evi-
dently taken from the actually existing example: Great Britain. In
this sense, the book could function as a critique of the state in
Germany. That is to say, what is described in the book is a model to
be realized in the future in all places other than the pioneers of the
trinity: Great Britain, France, and The Netherlands. In fact, even
today, the formation of the trinity is the main objective in many
countries of the world. The formation of the capitalist nation-state is
never an easy task.
Gramsci spoke of revolutionary movements using figures of mili-
tary tactics: the war of maneuver (frontal attack) and the war of posi-
tion. The war of maneuver signifies a confrontational and direct
fight with the state government, while the war of position indicates a
struggle within and against the hegemonic apparatuses of civil soci-
ety, residing behind the state governmental apparatus. In this con-
text, he clearly stated that what had worked in the Russian
Revolution would not work for Western civil societies. “In Russia, the
State was everything, civil society was primordial and gelatinous; in
the West, there was a proper relation between the State and civil so-
ciety, and when the state trembled a sturdy structure of civil society
was at once revealed. The State was only an outer ditch, behind
which there stood a powerful system of fortresses and earthworks.”
A mature civil society is established only where the wedding of Capital-
Nation-State is well established. In Italy, fascists smashed the Leninist
struggle that was led by Gramsci and centered on the occupation of
factories. Its weakness was due to its reliance on nationalism. Mean-
while, in Russia, where the wedding of Capital-State-Nation had not
been completed, wars were fought on behalf of the tsar himself and
not for the nation; therefore, the socialist revolution had been able
to, or had to, resort to nationalism. Since then, many socialist revo-
lutions have borne national independence movements; in those
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regions where state apparatuses and capitals conspired with colo-
nialist powers, it was the socialists who informed and realized nation-
alism. The success of the revolutions unfortunately does not teach
us anything further concerning the struggle where the Capital-
Nation-State trinity is well established.
One often hears the prediction that, thanks to the globalization of
capital, the nation-state will disappear. It is certain that economic
policies within nation-states do not work as effectively as before, be-
cause of the growing network of international economic reliance on
foreign trade. But, no matter how international relations are reorga-
nized and intensified, the state and nation won’t disappear. When
individual national economies are threatened by the global market
(neoliberalism), they demand the protection (redistribution) of the
state and/or bloc economy, at the same time as appealing to na-
tional cultural identity. So it is that any counteraction to capital must
also be one targeted against the state and nation (community). The
capitalist nation-state is fearless because of its trinity. The denial of
one ends up being reabsorbed in the ring of the trinity by the power
of the other two. This is because each of them, though appearing to
be illusory, is based upon different principles of exchange. There-
fore, when we take capitalism into consideration, we always have to
include nation and state. And the counteraction against capitalism
also has to be against nation-state. In this light, social democracy
does nothing to overcome the capitalist economy but is the last re-
sort for the capitalist nation-state’s survival.
The capitalist economy has an autonomous power. But it also has
its own limits. No matter how much the capitalist commodity econ-
omy affects the whole production, it is partial and parasitic. Further-
more, it has an exteriority that it cannot treat at its disposal—land
(the natural environment in the broad sense) and humans as agents
of labor-power commodity.
For the capitalist market economy to
reproduce humans and nature, the intervention of the nation-state
is imperative. Kozo Uno saw the ultimate bounds of capitalism in the
fact that capital by itself cannot produce labor-power commodity.
Labor-power commodity is certainly not a simple commodity, since
it cannot be reproduced because of a shortage, nor discarded be-
cause of an excess. A shortage of labor power lowers the profit rate
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because of the rise of wages it necessitates. Although this conjuncture
makes the trade cycle inevitable, it can never deliver the fatal blow
to the capitalist economy. Capital deals with the surplus and short-
age of labor power by calling on its “industrial reserve army,” drawn
from the agricultural heartland and small businesses as well as un-
derdeveloped countries. The capitals of developed countries import
foreign workers when internal wages rise or export production
abroad. If so, this limit indicates only that the accumulation of capi-
tal can continue by way of the very crisis and the trade cycle, and this
is the way capital is perpetuated.
Now environmental problems—even the most severe—cannot
deal capitalism the fatal blow. During the past century, capitalist
production has destroyed the self-sustaining recycling system of the
natural environment, with which humans had worked in harmony
for a long time as agricultural producers. Thus one now sees environ-
mental pollution on a global scale. But to see it as an evil of the re-
cent progressivism of modern industrialization is one-dimensional. It
has been observed for quite a long time. Marx, of course, had
thought about it. The Marx of Capital assumed the stance that sees
history from the vantage point of human/nature relations, namely,
in the context of the environment in the broad sense.
Capitalist production collects the population together in great centers, and
causes the urban population to achieve an ever-growing preponderance.
This has two results. On the one hand it concentrates the historical motive
power of society; on the other hand, it disturbs the metabolic interaction
between man and the earth, i.e., it prevents the return to the soil of its con-
stituent elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing;
hence it hinders the operation of the eternal natural condition for the last-
ing fertility of the soil. Thus it destroys at the same time the physical health
of the urban worker, and the intellectual life of the rural worker.
Notwithstanding this insight, what is crucial in Capital is less the dis-
tinction between industry and agriculture than that between the
capitalist mode of production and production in general, or be-
tween the world organized by value form and not. Commodification
and industrialization are related, yet different matters altogether.
Vis-à-vis the environmental problem, increasing numbers of people
advocate symbiosis with nature rather than dominance, after the
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model of underdeveloped societies, that is, of precapitalist modes of
production or agrarian communities. This is another romantic
dream of people who mainly reside in advanced industrial nations.
Ironically and tragically, environmental pollution expresses itself
most cruelly in those underdeveloped nations which had until very
recently enjoyed symbiosis with nature.
The environmental problem alone cannot be the motive to termi-
nate industrial capitalism. In reality, the most efficient way to elimi-
nate environmental pollution would be to include the cost of
recycling waste materials into the cost of production, that is, a green
tax. This requires seeing what has been deemed a free good as a
commodity. The things that have, since Adam Smith, been consid-
ered to have use value but not exchange value, for example, air and
water, are now becoming objects of commodity production. My
point here is that the environmental problem will result in further
and further commodification and privatization of the world, rather
than the reverse. In consequence, environmental and food crises
have the very real potential to invite new imperialist conflicts be-
tween states. Therein capitals and states will risk anything for their
survival, and peoples of all nations, despite their wishes, will be en-
gulfed in their acts. And all those acts will be executed as ‘public
consensus’. Facing World War I, the social democrats who repre-
sented many nations at the Second International came to support
the intervention of the war. Today’s disaster caused by environmen-
tal pollution is becoming more and more urgent to the extent of re-
minding people of their ‘war intervention.’ No one can deny any
longer that this is due to industrial capitalism, and if it is not re-
strained, major catastrophes will be inevitable. However, to act against
it is difficult because we are living as part of the capitalist nation-state.
Therefore, if we cannot find a way out of the circuit, there is no hope
for us. I believe that the way out is only through association.
7.2 A Possible Communism
Herein finally intervenes the fourth type of exchange: association. The
principle of association that was established by the anarchist Proudhon
is totally different from the other three. It is an ethico-economic form
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 283
of exchange. And, as I said before, Marx also speculated that an
“association of associations” would replace the capitalist nation-state.
This prospect quickly dissipated, however, not because the Paris
Commune was crushed, nor because Marx kicked Bakunin’s sup-
porters out of the First International. It was due to the heavy indus-
trialization that began in Germany, France, and America in the
1860s. Around the same time, Marx was writing the third volume of
Capital, with the idea that the cooperative productions could com-
pete with corporations, though in reality they never prospered. In
the stage of the industrial development centered on textiles, the co-
operatives could contend with corporations, but not after. (They
were defeated not only by British corporations, but by a larger force:
the mammoth German state capitalism. In fact, even English corpo-
rations declined during the process of heavy industrialization, de-
feated by the same force. It also occurred to the association of Swiss
watchmakers upon which Bakunin relied; it was visited on them by
the force of American and German mechanical production.)
Observing this, Engels as well as the German Social Democratic
Party came to appreciate mammoth corporations and conceived
that socialization (state ownership) of them would necessarily lead
to socialism, ignoring cooperative production. But this enlargement
itself was found not to be an irreversible sort of development. Begin-
ning in the 1990s, the general composition of world commodity has
been changing from one based on durable consumer goods to one
dominated by the information industry. It is accompanied by the
tendency of mammoth-sized companies supported by the statist cor-
poratism to decompose, and new types of monopolies and oligopo-
lies by international capitals to flourish; meanwhile the outstanding
growth has been in the network of small- to mid-sized companies
(i.e., venture businesses). Interestingly, there is a possibility that the
latter—in contrast to the mammoth corporations—could be trans-
formed into cooperative productions. In this sense, today’s situation
is becoming similar to the climate in the age when Marx was thinking
of associations of cooperatives. So it is that we should read Capital not
as a classic written before the time of heavy industry and state capi-
tal, but as a text that can be revived in our age of neoliberalism and
global capitalism.
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After 1848, revolutionary movements based upon street uprisings
became obsolete on the European continent—especially in Great
Britain, where the Chartist movement peaked and then declined.
Then, in the 1850s, universal suffrage was realized, and the so-called
labor aristocrats appeared. Therefore, when we read Capital now, we
should no longer look for the glorious prospect of revolution, but
pay attention to Marx’s search for a counteraction to the capitalist
commodity economy within which even the labor movement was to-
tally engulfed. One has to be cautious, especially about surplus value
theory. This is commonly ascribed to Marx, but it derived from the
Left Ricardians. That is to say that Marx’s critique of classical eco-
nomics implied the critique of the surplus value theory, which consid-
ers the production process as the only place where the exploitation of
surplus value takes place. Meanwhile, it was this theory that dramati-
cally delivered the Chartist movement and then the Establishment
labor unionism. British capital attained surplus value widely from its
colonies such as Ireland and India; so it was deceitful to consider the
production process as the only source of surplus value. This theoriza-
tion went hand in hand with the labor union tacitly demanding its
share of surplus value from the colonies. In other words, the capital
and the labor movements of one nation—Great Britain—came to
share an interest at the expense of the colonies. The nationalization
of interest later became common in more or less all other advanced
capitalist nation-states. (It was epitomized by an event in the late
nineteenth century, when a disciple of Engels, Edouard Bernstein
(1850–1932), approved the imperialism of the German Empire led
by Prussia from his social democratic position.)
There have been repeated attempts to ‘re-revolutionalize’ against
the labor movement’s conservative tendency. But, these, too, were
based upon the theory that attributes the secret of capital’s accumula-
tion only to the production process. Thus the strategy to revolutionize
the consciousness of workers “only from without,” namely, by the van-
guard party, with the conviction that the occupation of factories—that
is, a general strike—would cripple capitalism. This idea basically
failed because, in the first place, it is fundamentally difficult to make
the workers the subject of struggle on the production front. When
general strikes were realized in reality, it was often at the time when
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the state and capital were already weakened by external causes such
as defeat.
Another reason for the failure to revolutionize the labor move-
ment was that the real capitalism itself surpassed the visions of classi-
cal and neoclassical economics. In such a climate, Keynes came to
believe that chronic depression (or the crisis of capitalism) could be
overcome by producing effective demand. This not only implied the
mercantilist intervention of state, but more important that the total
social capital would come into existence in the form of the state. As
Marx explained, capitalists are willing to pay as little as possible to
their own workers (the production cost), while they hope other cap-
italists pay as much as possible to their own workers (the potential
consumers). But, if all capitalists followed this drive, depression
would endure, unemployment would be rampant, and the capitalist
system itself would be in a state of serious malfunction. Thus total so-
cial capital appeared to regulate the selfishness of individual capi-
tals. And then Fordism intervened with mass production, high
wages, and mass consumption, and produced a so-called consumer
society. Herein the labor movement became totally subsumed in the
capitalist system, encouraged rather than oppressed. Now the work-
ers’ economic struggle has come to support the up cycles of the cap-
italist economy in, for example, an increase of consumption (and
capital’s accumulation). Accordingly, it seems harder and harder to
find a moment in the production process to overthrow capitalism.
But it was always impossible.
In his later years, Engels, too, came to think that parliamentalist
revolution was possible. Though Karl Kautsky (1854–1938) attacked
Bernstein as a revisionist, if one considers the fact that he was the
legal heir of Engels’s copyright, it must be that Engels shared a simi-
lar position. And Kautsky, too, succeeded the policy of later Engels.
The idea of social democracy based upon redistribution of wealth by
the state unwittingly reinforces the nationalist impetus. As has been
stated, surplus value is finally realized in transnational intercourse;
in the redistribution, both capital and wage workers share the inter-
est in one nation-state. After the outbreak of World War I, both social
democrats and workers in the nations involved turned to support the
war, and the Second International collapsed as a consequence. Thus
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Lenin rightfully accused Kautsky as an apostate. But his Third Inter-
national (or Comintern) also came to be subordinated to the national
interest of the Soviet Union. These failures were not necessarily due
to Marxists’ indifference to the problematics of nation, as might be
considered widely, but, to their ignorance of the problematics of
state. Inasmuch as one sees only the production process as the prob-
lematic place of exploitation and resort to state power to resolve it,
the rise of nationalism that unequivocally pursues profit of its own is
At the end of the twentieth century, the victory of Bernsteinism
became evident. Edouard Bernstein constructed his position from
his experience of British society and socialist movements in the late
nineteenth century. In Britain, after the 1850s, the working class
began to enjoy a certain richness and consumerist lifestyle. So it was
that a social democrat like John Stuart Mill became prominent.
It was in such a situation that Marx wrote Capital. Today, some
Marxists advocate a return to Mill. They do not think about the fact
that Marx wrote Capital in an age when Mill was in fashion. Begin-
ning from such a paradigm, it is clear that one can no longer think
in terms of the dialectic of master and slave: The dialectic that iden-
tifies wage-labor as a version of slave or serf and concludes with the
victory of the laborers is obsolete. And Marx sought to think of the
capitalist economy and its sublation [Auf heben] totally differently.
In Capital, as Marx clearly stated in his preface, both capitalists
and workers are deemed only agents of economic categories: capital
(money) and labor power (commodity). Although Marxists refer to
Capital often, generally speaking, Marxists are somehow unsatisfied
and perplexed by it. This is because it is difficult to find a moment
for the subjective practice therein. But this is not a shortcoming of
the book. Capital looks at the capitalist economy from the vantage
point of “natural history,” namely, a “theoretical” stance; it is only
natural that the dimension of subjective intervention is absent.
Thus, Uno Kozo is correct when he said that Capital only presents
the necessity of crisis and not of revolution, and that revolution is a
practical problem. And this “practical,” I insist, must be interpreted
in the Kantian sense: that the movement against capitalism is an eth-
ical and moral one. All the counteractions—against exploitation,
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alienation, inequality, environmental destruction, discrimination,
and so forth—are ethical and moral through and through. Mean-
while, although Marx bracketed the individuals’ responsibility in
Capital, this does not mean that he denied the ethical dimension.
It is evident that socialism is motivated by morality and Marx himself
was so—except that he pointed out that the ethical movement that
ignored the economic category would inexorably fail. And his eco-
nomic category was equal to the value form that makes various prod-
ucts commodities and money.
To repeat, Capital is a structurally determined topos where subjec-
tivity cannot freely intervene—this nevertheless with an exception
that capitalists are active agents insofar as they are in the position of
money form. This is the activity of money—the position to buy
(equivalent form). But those who sell their labor-power commodity
have no other choice but to be passive; yet again there is an excep-
tion in the structure: this is a topos where workers appear to be the
subject—the place where the products of capitalist production
are sold. This is the place of consumption. This is the only position
where workers can stand as buyers, with their own money. In Grun-
drisse, Marx described this place: “What precisely distinguishes capi-
tal from the master-servant relation is that the worker confronts him
as a consumer and possessor of exchange values, and that in the
form of the possessor of money, in the form of money he becomes a
simple center of circulation—one of its infinitely many centers, in
which his specificity as worker is extinguished.”
For capital, con-
sumption is the place where surplus value is finally realized, thus the
only place where it is subordinated to the will of the other, that is,
workers qua consumers.
Neoclassical economists consider consumers to be one of the two
subjects of economic activity (along with corporations). But in this
formulation, the consumer-subjects who are assigned to realize
‘effective demand’ maximally are not truly subjective. Simply being
an element of demand in the market economy, they are passive be-
ings, motivated only by the desire of consumption (or differentia-
tion). Furthermore, since the category of consumers includes
everyone: capitalists, independent producers, and workers, it ob-
scures the crucial relationality of capital versus wage labor. When
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separated from the relationality—capital vs. wage labor—the subjec-
tivity of consumers can only be an abstract category. It is for this rea-
son that for Marxists, the place of consumption has appeared to be
false and deceitful (at least, before the advent of the postmodern
scene). A multitude of negative accounts of consumer society have
tacitly conceived this position (and the positive accounts as well).
With respect to our position, however, the consumer position is
something that should be rediscovered and redefined. All in all, sur-
plus value that sustains industrial capital can exist, in principle, only
thanks to this mechanism that workers in totality buy back what they
produce. Surplus value is finally realized on the consumption point,
the place where capital is confronted by alterity and compelled into
a salto mortale as a seller of commodities.
In the monetary economy, buying and selling as well as production
and consumption are separated. This splits workers’ subject into
half—labor-power = seller subject and consumer subject—and margin-
alizes the former, making it seem as if corporations and consumers
were the only subjects of economic activities. In consequence, it also
segregates the labor and consumers’ movements. In recent history,
while labor movements have been brought down to skeletons, con-
sumers’ movements have flourished, often incorporating issues of en-
vironmental protection, feminism, and minorities. Generally, they
take the form of civil action and are not connected to, or are some-
times even antagonistic to, the labor movement. After all, though,
consumers’ movements are virtually laborers’ movements transposed,
and are important only inasmuch as they are so. Conversely, the labor
movement could go beyond the bounds of its “specificity” inasmuch
as it self-consciously adopts the potency of consumers’ positionality.
For, in fact, the process of consumption as a reproduction of labor-
power commodity covers a whole range of fronts of our life-world, in-
cluding child care, education, leisure, and community activities.
Here let us reconsider the meaning of the fact that industrial capi-
tal is based upon labor-power commodity. This implies not only that
industrial capital hires workers to make them work, but also, and
more important, that surplus value is attained only by workers, who
in totality buy back what they produce. (Although what workers buy
are consumer goods, if they were not sold, neither could producer’s
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goods be sold.) That is to repeat that the accumulation of capital is
realized not only in the production process, but also, and ultimately,
in the circulation process. The most significant distinction between
Capital and the work of classical economists is this stress on the cir-
culation process. Classical economists could not care less about it,
because they were dependent upon Say’s Law of Market—that sup-
ply (or production) creates its own demand (or consumption).
Keynes derided Marx for relying on Say’s Law of Market, but it only
proves his ignorant as well as willful misunderstanding. In Capital,
Marx negated both Say’s Law and classical economists’ misconcep-
tion that profit is attained only by the production process (by labor).
But that stressing of the production process has persisted in
Marxists (as well as anarcho-syndicalists), who mainly protested
against the exploitation of surplus labor in the production process
as well as alienation by mechanical production; and who presumed
that the struggle within the production process would terminate
capital’s movement of accumulation. The production process in a
capitalist economy, however, is little more than the place where
labor-power commodities sold to capital actually work, therefore the
struggle is inexorably focused on improving the terms of labor con-
tracts. As Marx stated, the labor union movement is limited to the
economic struggle. But there is no other way for the movement but
to focus on the economic struggle, and its importance should not be
disdained because of this. This movement has contributed to the
rise of wages, the shortened labor week, and improvement of work-
ing conditions. But now these struggles have become a given in the
capitalist economy. Keynes pompously spelled out his own way of in-
terpreting the historical achievement of the labor union—namely,
the ‘law’ of the rigidity or inflexibility of wages in a downward direction—
as opposed to that of economists of the classical school.
It was Antonio Negri who radically challenged the Marxist conven-
tion that the proletariat becomes an autonomous subject in the
process of production. Returning to Grundrisse from Capital, he
sought the moment for the proletariats’ subjectivity. In my dis-
course, this corresponds to the moment that the workers stand in
the buying position, in the process of circulation. Finally, it means
that if workers can become subjects at all, it is only as consumers.
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The split between production and consumption constitutes capital,
while it is also this moment that can terminate capital. But it seems
to me that Negri misreads Capital. That is, he still follows the con-
vention that surplus value, being detached from circulation, exists
only in the process of production. In Marx beyond Marx, he empha-
sizes that the theory of surplus value introduces the fact of exploita-
tion into the theory of political economy, while the Marxian theory
of circulation introduces class struggle. (Thus he proposes the need
of shifting our focus from surplus value theory—Capital—to circula-
tion theory—Grundrisse.)
In our context, we rather have to find the
moment for class struggle in the theory of value form in Capital.
After the failure of the struggles centered on workers’ occupation
of factories, Gramsci, in his prison cell, came to realize that it was
due to the state’s and capital’s control of the reproduction process
of labor power, and he found it imperative to render the struggle in
institutions—such as in the family, school, and church—over cul-
tural hegemony. This might be deemed the very initiation of the
“cultural turn” (Fredric Jameson) of Marxism. This tendency is still
based on the ‘base and superstructure metaphor’: that the produc-
tion process is where substantial exploitation takes place, while the
circulation process is its representation. Its goal is to liberate work-
ers from reification by focusing on the critique of cultural represen-
tation (cultural ideological apparati). Its focus on the reproduction
process—where cultural representation forms hegemony—is tacitly
taking its production process centrism for granted. In contrast, in
our view, the process of reproduction of labor power is nothing but
the circulation process that capital has to go through in order to
complete its circuitous movement. It is true that in Capital, workers’
consumption is considered a passive process for the reproduction of
labor power, and just a given of capital’s movement. At the same
time, however, Marx also stresses that value (surplus value) is fully
realized only in the process of circulation. Therefore, it is only here
that the moment for workers to be subject exists.
Here I would like to point out one crucial aspect of Gramsci’s con-
cepts of ‘war of maneuver’ and ‘war of position’. According to his
analysis, the shift from the former to the latter had already begun in
the late nineteenth century: “The problem of the political struggle’s
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 291
transition from a ‘war of maneuver’ to a ‘war of position’ certainly
needs to be considered at this juncture. In Europe this transition
took place after 1848, and was not understood by Mazzini and his
followers, as it was on the contrary by certain others: the same transi-
tion took place after 1871, etc.”
In this context, the “war of posi-
tion” should be interpreted as much more than just the struggle of
hegemony. This becomes clear if we are aware of his understanding
of Gandhi’s agenda: “Gandhi’s passive resistance is a war of position,
which at certain moments becomes a war of movement, and at oth-
ers underground warfare. Boycotts are a form of war of position,
strikes of war of movement, the secret preparation of weapons and
combat troops belongs to underground warfare.”
He evidently
sought the crux of the war of position in the boycott movement.
If one reads this passage in combination with his analysis that after
the revolution of 1848 there was a transition from a war of maneuver
to a war of position, it implies that at the time Capital was being writ-
ten, in the late nineteenth century, the struggle of the proletariat
had already been shifted to acts of boycott, namely, acts that affected
the process of circulation; nevertheless the shift was not thoroughly
registered. The political struggle’s transition from a ‘war of maneu-
ver’ to a ‘war of position’ was conspicuous, more than anywhere, in
Britain at the point in time when the Chartist Movement by the Ri-
cardian Socialists ran out. Thus my project is to read Capital as that
which provides the logic of the war of position.
Surplus value cannot be realized in the process of production
alone, because it can be realized only as total social capital. Here is
a vitally important implication: Inasmuch as surplus value can only
be realized globally, the movement to terminate it must be transna-
tional. Struggles within individual enterprises or even within individ-
ual total national capitals would be no more than a part of the
capitalist economy. Workers are divided according to the enterprises
and the nation-states to which they belong. In this situation, their in-
terests cannot be detached from those of individual capitals or indi-
vidual nation-states. The fact stands that workers and farmers of
advanced states are exploited, but at the same time compensated, by
the various redistributions of the states (or the total social capital);
and because of this redistribution by which they live, they are
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exploiting foreign workers and farmers, though indirectly. As long
as our concerns are focused on the production point, labor move-
ments remain divided by states, and always end up requiring more
powerful control of state power.
While capital organizes social relations globally, the moment to over-
turn capital—inexorably at the same time as following it—is folded
within, namely, in the process of circulation. According to Hegel’s
“dialectic of master and slave,” when the master recognizes that he is
relying on his slave’s labor, the master ceases to be the master, and
the slave is no longer the slave. This logic, based upon feudal domi-
nation, namely, plunder/redistribution, cannot be applied to the re-
lationship between capitalist and wage worker. Because, as Marx
emphasizes, the relationship between capitalist and wage worker is
not one between selfconsciousnesses, but one which is based upon
the relationship between capital and the commodity of labor power
or, if we return further back, upon the relationship (the value form)
between money and commodity. It is only in the relationship based
upon looting—over which hovers the fear of death—that the dialec-
tic of master and slave functions. Meanwhile, in the relationship of
exchange, there is only the fear of being unsold, including both the
fear of the labor commodity to be discharged, and the fear of the
capitalist whose products may not be sold. There were and are enter-
prises in which the relationship between capitalist and workers are
like that between master and slave. The labor movement in such a
workplace requires a life-and-death struggle. Yet, even after the rela-
tionship is democratized, it is not that the relationship between capi-
tal and wage labor (or labor-power commodity) withers away.
However, the relational structure beyond subjective consciousness
does not nullify “subjectivity” entirely. Those who are in the position
of capital are subjective (active), while those who are in the position
of having to sell their labor power are inevitably passive. Therefore,
it is only a matter of inevitability that workers can only engage in the
economic struggle where they negotiate with capitalists over their
commodity value. In Capital, the moment for workers to be subjects
is found when the shift of workers’ position in the categories—
commodity-money—takes place: from being the labor-power com-
modity to being the money en masse that buys commodities. That is
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 293
to say that workers as the other—the one who capital can never
subsume—appear as consumers. It follows that the class struggle
against capitalism must be a transnational movement of workers qua
consumers or consumers qua workers. Consumers’ civil acts, includ-
ing the problematization of environmental and minority issues, are
moral, but the reason they have achieved a certain success is that
a consumers’ boycott is the most dreadful thing capital can imagine.
In other words, the success of the moralist intervention is guaran-
teed not only by the power of morality in itself, but more crucially,
because it is the embodiment of the asymmetric relation between
commodity and money. Therefore, in order to begin an opposi-
tional movement against capital, it is imperative to discover a new
context where labor movements and consumers’ movements meet,
and this not as a political coalition between existing movements but
as a totally new movement itself.
Mainstream Marxists, who inherited classical economics, have
been prioritizing labor movements on the production front, while
considering anything else as secondary and subordinate. One has to
keep in mind another implication of this—that production process
centrism entails male centrism. As a point of fact, until the recent
past, labor movements have been conducted mainly by men, while
consumer movements have been led mainly by women. This has
been based on the division of labor between men and women, com-
pelled by industrial capitalism and the modern state. The produc-
tion process centrism of classical economics is a view that stresses
“value-productive labor” and thus considers household work to be
unproductive. The discrimination between value-productive and
non-value-productive labors began with industrial capitalism and
quickly became “gendered.” It is now clear that the male-centrist rev-
olutionary movement, which lacks a countermeasure to this gen-
dered division of labor, cannot be a real oppositional movement
against the state-capital amalgamation.
Meanwhile, in advanced capitalist nation-states, civil acts have
been central as a repulsion against the male centrism of the labor
movement. They involve issues of discrimination against women and
other minorities as well as the environment. Unfortunately, civil
acts here, in reverse, tend to abstract the matters of process of
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Toward Transcritical Counteractions
production and relation of production; in consequence, the
relationality with the people in the Third World becomes ab-
stracted. Accordingly, this tends to be finally subsumed into social
democracy. The central lesson from this is that so long as our beings
and minds are split between process of production and process of
circulation, it is impossible to resist capital’s accumulation and the
relation of production inherent in capitalism. The opposition to a
capitalist nation-state should be neither a workers’ movement nor
a consumers’ movement; this should be a movement of workers qua
consumers, and consumers qua workers. The movement has to be a
transnational association of consumers/workers.
In the past, developing countries were categorized as the ‘Third
World’, based upon the politico-economic world system of the Cold
War. The socialist bloc sought to make these countries secede from
the world market and draw them into their fold, with the prospect of
collapsing world capitalism. And the leading capitalist states had
their own countermeasures. In 1989, the strategy of the socialist bloc
was reduced to nil. Since then, the globalization of capitalism has
begun in earnest. There is no longer any ideal that can group devel-
oping countries as a Third World, and, at various stages of develop-
ment, they are too divided for unification. But most of them are
equally extremely impoverished; their traditional primary industries
were reduced to rubble by the pressures of overwhelming interna-
tional and transnational capitals. This is a creation of the world mar-
ket of capitalism, and will be reproduced endlessly. There is no
longer a possibility for those who are in the developing regions to
detach themselves from the world market and develop their
economies autonomously. But I still believe there is a way.
I think the possibility lies in associationism: to develop a circulation
system using local currency, and thereby to nurture producers’/
consumers’ cooperatives and connect them to those in the First World.
This would be noncapitalist trade and could form a network without
the mediation of states. The counteraction to the capitalist nation-state
cannot be limited within the boundaries of one nation-state. Facing
global warming, the movement should be no less than global.
The shift from the labor movement to the consumer movement
is by itself not the ‘Copernican turn’ in the full Kantian sense.
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 295
As I pointed out in the part on Kant, the Copernican turn was a new
stance to see the earth and sun as terms in a relational structure, ir-
respective of those empirically observed objects. The introduction of
this stance was more revolutionary than the overturn of the helio-
centric view. I would say that the same is true with the movement of
“workers qua consumers.” The movements of consumers’ boycotts
have long existed empirically, but they attain a radical implication
comparable to the Copernican turn only when they are posited in
the context of the theory of value form and seen as a transposition
from relative value form to equivalent value form (from seller of
labor-power commodity to buyer of commodities); and further
in the context of the capital’s metamorphosis: M-C-MЈ. If not for the
theoretical position, consumers’ acts or civil acts would be subsumed
into social democracy.
The movement of consumers qua workers is crucial, however, not
because workers’ movements are in decline. The exploitation of sur-
plus value takes place in an invisible whole. If so, the resistance—the
countermovement against the exploitation—must also take place
within the black box, namely, in the domain of the circulation
process in which neither capital nor state can ever take control. The
concept ‘workers qua consumers’ becomes crucial in this struggle in
the dark. This principle could be applied to past history as well.
Imagine! Should this have intervened in the conflict between parlia-
mentarianism versus Leninism in the late nineteenth century, things
would have been different. Against the parliamentarianism posed by
Bernstein and Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin famously in-
sisted upon a strategy centered on workers’ general strikes.
And anarcho-syndicalists were the same in this aspect. And neither
side could stop the imperialist wars. But, if I allow a subjunctive
mood here: suppose that, in the place of political ‘general strike’ ex-
ecuted at the risk of workers’ lives, internationally united workers
conducted a ‘general boycott’, a campaign of refusing to buy major
capitalist products (whatever the national origin) under the leader-
ship of the Second International while working normally, states and
capitals would have been powerless, because all of these acts are
legal and nonviolent, at the same time as being most damaging to
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This movement does not require a forged, strong, class consciousness
that is always ‘willing to sacrifice’. From the beginning, such political
organizations that demands others’ sacrifice are themselves nothing
other than that which generates statist power. Summarizing the
Marxist movements since the late nineteenth century, one has to
conclude that their severe failures have been due to their ignorance
of the capitalist economy and state. Only by learning from this can a
new transnational associationist movement be conceptualized.
The self-reproductive movement of capital will never end by itself;
it will continue, no matter what kind of crises it entails. Then, in
what way can one stop it? I would propose an idea of combining two
endeavors. The first one is to create a form of production and con-
sumption that exists outside the circuit of M-C-MЈ—the consumers’/
producers’ cooperative. In this “association of free and equal pro-
ducers,” there is no wage labor (labor-power commodity). In order
to make this entity grow and expand, one ought to establish a finan-
cial system (or a system of payment/settlement) based on a currency
that does not turn to capital, namely, that does not involve interest.
And this is the most crucial task.
Marx’s Capital is in essence a scrutiny of capital, namely, the money
that characteristically transforms into capital. Capitalist society is con-
stantly organized and reorganized by way of the self-multiplication
of money. Marx’s task was to elucidate the enigma of money. But,
what kind of countermeasure can come out of his scrutiny? Both En-
gels and Lenin thought that capitalism could be abolished by state
regulation and planned economy. This nonetheless makes in-
eluctable the abolition of the market economy itself where individu-
als can trade freely, and finally the abolition of freedom itself. This
idea derived from the labor theory of value of classical economics,
and was inexorably unable to go beyond the law of value inherent in
the capitalist economy. This can at best draw the idea of a society
where individuals can get what they work for; this can by no means
lead to communism where individuals can get what they need. Nei-
ther of them saw the problematically unique phase of money.
Money is not simply an index of value, but a mediating force that or-
ganizes exchange and regulates the value-relation of all products.
Thus money exists as the organ of the relational structure of all
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 297
commodities, namely, transcendental apperception X. This, in the
operations of the real market, is hypostatized; thereby the fetishism
of money or the movement of capital qua money’s self-multiplication
occurs. And bourgeois economists advocate the superiority of mar-
ket economy, covering up the fact that it is nothing but the autotelic
movement of capital. Nevertheless, for this goal, the market econ-
omy of money itself should not be simplemindedly abandoned. Nei-
ther is there any hope in the compromise plan of social democracy:
the acceptance of the market with state control. All these stances try
to neutralize money but do not seek to sublate it.
The ultimate moment that one can draw from Capital is this antin-
omy: Money should exist; money should not exist. To abolish (or
sublate) money is equal to creating a currency that would fulfill
these conflicting conditions. Marx did not say anything about the
money that would be a solution. All he did was critique Proudhon’s
ideas of labor money and exchange bank. Proudhon’s idea, too, was
based upon the labor theory of value; he sought to make a currency
that purely valorizes labor time. Here there was a blind spot: Labor
value is conditioned by the social exchanges via money; it is formed
as value only after the fact of the exchange. That is to say, the social
labor time qua substance of value is formed via money, which thus
cannot replace money. Labor money tacitly relies on the existing
monetary economy; even if it tries to challenge the system, it could
at best be exchanged with existing money for the difference in mar-
ket value. It is extremely difficult to sublate money; saying this, how-
ever, does not mean that Marx gave up the possibility of a currency
that does not transform into capital.
Having the antinomy in mind, the most exciting example to me is
LETS (Local Exchange Trading System), conceptualized and prac-
ticed by Michael Linton since 1982.
It is a multifaceted system of
settlement, where participants have their own accounts, register the
wealth and service that they can offer in the inventory, and conduct
exchanges freely, and then the results are recorded in the accounts.
In contrast to the currency of the state central bank, the currency of
LETS is issued each time by those who are to receive goods or ser-
vices from other participants. And it is so organized that the sum
total of the gains and losses of everyone be zero. In this simple
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Toward Transcritical Counteractions
system—that should be further developed technically in the future—
exists a clue to solving the antinomy of money.
When compared with the exchange of mutual aid in traditional
communities and that of the capitalist commodity economy, the na-
ture of LETS becomes clearer. It is, on the one hand, similar to the
system of mutual aid in the aspect that it does not impose high price
with interest, but, on the other hand, closer to the market in that
the exchange can occur between those who are mutually far apart
and strangers. In contrast to the capitalist market economy, in
LETS, money does not transform into capital; but it is not simply be-
cause there is no interest, but because it is based upon the zero sum
principle (the principle of offsetting earnings and expenses in sum
total). It is so organized that, although the exchanges occur actively,
‘money’ does not exist as a result. Therefore, the antinomy—money
should exist and money should not exist—is deemed solved. Speak-
ing in the context of Marx’s theory of value form, the currency of
LETS is a general equivalent, which however just connects all the
goods and services and does not become an autonomous, autotelic
drive. The fetish of money would not occur here. In the domain of
LETS, not only is there no sense in accumulating money as the po-
tency of exchange, but neither is there a need to worry about an in-
crease or loss. While the system of value relation among goods and
services is organized via the currency of LETS, it would not become
unconditionally commensurable like state currencies. Finally, in
LETS money, labor value as “the common essence” would not be es-
tablished ex post facto.
Most important, LETS totally accords with the principles of associ-
ation. It is not simply economic but ethical. It is an ethico-economic
association. While the mutual aid in traditional communities com-
pels fidelity to them, and the market economies compel the belong-
ing to communities (states) of currencies, the social contract in
LETS is precisely like the “association” Proudhon dreamt of. Individ-
uals can quit a particular LETS anytime and/or belong to other
LETS at the same time. Unlike the currency of a state, the currency
of LETS is really currencies, they are pluralistic and exist as a multi-
plicity. More important, in contrast to other local currencies, LETS
offers each participant the right to issue his or her own currency
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 299
(just in the act of registering/recording in the account). If one
aspect of the sovereignty of the state exists in its right to issue the
currency, one can say that LETS actually offers sovereignties to the
multitudes, going far beyond the specious motto “Sovereignty rests
with the people.” So it is that LETS is more than another local cur-
rency: The problematic it addresses is more than economic in the
narrow sense. As I have said, capital, state, and nation are all based
upon their own principles of exchange that is finally economic in the
broad sense. Therefore, only with the association based on LETS as
a new principle of exchange is it possible to replace the trinity.
The last aspect of LETS is that it is formed in the circulation
process, where consumers hold the initiative. While conventional co-
operatives of producers and consumers are quickly driven into
hopeless competition with full-hearted capitalist enterprises, LETS
can nurture the free, autonomous subjectivity of consumers-as-
workers. Only when LETS and the financial system based upon it ex-
pand can the noncapitalist producers’ and consumers’ cooperatives
autonomously exist. But, in terms of strategy, the extracapitalist
mode of practice alone cannot terminate capital’s auto-replicating
movement. It would remain as partial and complementary to the mar-
ket economy, no matter how popular it became. For this reason, re-
quired are not only the extracapitalist movement, but also the struggle
remaining within capitalist economy. Then, where can they interact?
It goes without saying that it is in the transcritical position where work-
ers appear as consumers, namely, at the front of circulation.
In capital’s movement M-C-MЈ, there are two critical moments:
buying labor-power commodity and selling products to workers. Fail-
ure in either moment disables capital from achieving surplus value.
In other words, it fails to be capital. That is to say that in these mo-
ments workers can counter capital. The first moment is expressed by
Antonio Negri as “Don’t Work!” This really signifies, in this context,
“Don’t Sell Your Labor-Power Commodity!” or “Don’t Work as a
Wage Laborer!” The second moment says, “Don’t Buy Capitalist
Products!” Both of them can occur in the topos where workers can
be the subjects. These are the countermovements within. But in
order for workers/consumers to be able ‘not to work’ and ‘not to
buy’, there must be a safety net whereupon they can still work and
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Toward Transcritical Counteractions
buy to live. This is nothing but an association such as producers’ and
consumers’ cooperatives armed with LETS. Thus the noncapitalist
cooperatives as well as local currency would support the struggles
within the capitalist economy. The “don’t sell/don’t buy” boycott
movements within capitalist production would accelerate the reorga-
nization of capitalist corporation into cooperative entity. Therefore,
the immanent and ex-scendent struggles against capitalism can
interact and be connected only in the circulation process, namely,
the topos for consumers qua workers, workers qua consumers. This
is the only place where there is a moment for individuals to be sub-
jects. Association is strictly based on the subjectivity of individuals; it
is possible only by having the circulation process as an axis.
The annihilation of the capitalist market economy is not the same
as the annihilation of the market economy in toto. And the death of
the political state is not equal to the coming of the anarchic state.
The controversial thinker Carl Schmitt made an insightful comment
on the death of the state vis-à-vis consumers’/producers’ coopera-
tive. According to him, who stressed the autonomous dimension of
state and politics, the League of Nations idea could never decom-
pose states; it would only result in hegemony of a strong state or a
group of states. “Were a world state to embrace the entire globe and
humanity, then it would be no political entity and could only be
loosely called a state. If in fact, all humanity and the entire world
were to become a unified entity based exclusively on economics and
on technically regulating traffic . . . [s]hould that interest group also
want to become cultural, ideological, or otherwise more ambitious,
and yet remain strictly nonpolitical, then it would be a neutral con-
sumer or producer co-operative moving between the poles of ethics
and economics. It would know neither state nor kingdom nor em-
pire, neither republic nor monarchy, neither aristocracy nor democ-
racy, neither protection nor obedience, and would lose its political
In other words, Schmitt also implies that there is no
other way but to nurture the association of consumers’/producers’
cooperatives in order to sublate the state. In this situation, the state
would remain, but no longer as a political entity. In addition, one
can say that the abolition of the capitalist economy would not abolish
money itself; the coming global network of consumers’/producers’
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 301
cooperatives would not be a retrogression to self-sufficient, self-
enclosed communities, but an open market economy; and it would
not be like the market economy as we know it.
The counteraction to the capitalist nation-state should be nonviolent
through and through. But here a redefinition of “nonviolent” is neces-
sary; the parliamentary system—as opposed to a military uprising—is
always defined as the “nonviolent” way of changing the political
state. But it is not the case that it is veritably nonviolent. I argue that
parliamentarianism, too, wills to state power. According to Max
Weber, the state is equal to a human community that demands an
actual monopolization of the means of executing physical violence
within a limited domain. Whether by compulsion or by agreement,
the execution of might is violent through and through. Therefore,
all those who are involved in politics are flirting with the demonic
power lurking in violence, it might be said.
In this sense of Weber,
social democracy is in the least nonviolent, albeit less violent. Social
democracy seizes state power by resorting to the majority vote in the
parliamentary system and seeks to redistribute the wealth extorted
from capital (as tax) to workers. If so (as seen from the stance of the
radical libertarian Hayek), the difference between Bernstein and
Lenin is not as large as it seems. Both resort to state power, that is,
violence. One is a soft statism, while the other a hard statism. From
our vantage point, neither seeks the abolition of the labor-power
commodity, namely, wage labor. And the social democracy is the last
resort for the capitalist nation-state to survive.
What we call nonviolence is exemplified by the strategy of
Mahatma Gandhi. But it cannot be reduced to so-called civil disobe-
dience. Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of nonviolent resistance is well
known, but less known are his ‘resistances’ of boycotting English
products and nurturing consumers’/producers’ cooperatives.
not for this nurturing, the boycott could not be what Gramsci called
the war of position. If not for the will to noncapitalist cooperatives,
the boycott would be a nationalist movement that cared only for the
well-being of national capitals.
Karl Polanyi likened capitalism (the market economy) to cancer.
Coming into existence in the interstice between agrarian commu-
nities and feudal states, capitalism invaded the internal cells and
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Toward Transcritical Counteractions
transformed their predispositions according to its own physiology.
It is still parasitic. If so, the transnational network of workers qua
consumers and consumers qua workers is a culture of anticancer
cells, as it were. In order to eliminate it, capital and state would have
to eliminate the conditions by which they were produced in the first
place. The immanent and ex-scendent counteraction that is based
upon the circulation front is totally legal and nonviolent, therefore,
no capitalist nation-state can meddle with it.
According to my reading, Marx’s Capital offers a logical ground
for the creation of this culture. That is, the asymmetric relationship
inherent in the value form (between commodity and money) pro-
duces capital, while it is here where the transpositional moment that
terminates capital can be grasped. To utilize it in the most effective
way is the task of transcritique.
Finally, we have to question what conditions are necessary for the
counteraction to truly function like the anticancer cells? The idea of
usurping or overthrowing the state always causes the act itself to be-
come similar to the state. In other words, the movement always
becomes a centrist, tree-structured organization. Not only Bolshe-
vism but also Bakuninism were so. The path of such a movement is
evident: either it is crushed by the state or, after the victory, it be-
comes the state (and thereby makes the state itself endure). But, on
the other hand, even if we destroy the state and welcome sheer dis-
order, as certain anarchists envision, the state would conversely re-
vive in a more forceful manner.
Meanwhile, the social democratic strategy—to transform society
by intervening in state power through parliament—is very much wel-
comed by the state. This is part of the contemporary state apparatus.
In contrast, a countermovement against the capitalist nation-state
would gradually construct the association as the principle of ex-
change as an alternative to those of the capitalist nation-state, and
an association of those associations. This movement should by itself
be an embodiment of its goal. For the association is not something
that is realized after the state-power is seized, but that should re-
place the state entirely.
Sublating the state is equal to forming a certain state (read social
state). In this sense, it should be similar to the state in one aspect.
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 303
That is, it has to have a certain center. If not, it cannot organize an
association of associations, and it would be merely a minor move-
ment that partially resists within the capitalist nation-state, or else
merely an aesthetic movement. Since the collapse of the Soviet
Union in the 1990s, there has been a broad tendency toward partial
resistances. Already after 1968, the idea of revolutionary movements
led by a central party had been radically questioned. What came out
of this were the multitudes of minor movements: ethnic, feminist, les-
bian, gay, consumerist, environmental—those that had been deemed
secondary in the centralist labor movement. Immanuel Wallerstein
called them “antisystemic movements.” We could call them “molecu-
lar” movements in contradistinction to the centrist “molar” organiza-
tion, after Deleuze and Guattari. In my opinion, these movements
basically signal a return of anarchism and also subsume the problem-
atic anarchism entailed. That is, they are too wary of centralization,
and remain divided and scattered, to be finally subsumed into a social
democratic party. In the early 1980s, Frederic Jameson already
pointed this out. While appreciating the significance of this tendency,
he claimed that in America the opposite tendency is necessary.
We must add a final comment about the coded political resonance of this
debate, which the critics of “totalization” have so often construed as an at-
tack on a monolithic or totalitarian ideology. Such instant “ideological
analysis” may profitably be juxtaposed with a social reading of the debate, as
a symbolic index of the distinct situations faced by the Left in the struc-
turally different national contexts of France and the United States. The cri-
tique of totalization in France goes hand in hand with a call for a
“molecular” or local, nonglobal, nonparty politics: and this repudiation of
the traditional forms of class and party action evidently reflects the historic
weight of French centralization (at work both in the institutions and in the
forces that oppose them), as well as the belated emergence of what can very
loosely be called a “countercultural” movement, with the breakup of the
old cellular family apparatus and a proliferation of subgroups and alternate
“life-styles.” In the United States, on the other hand, it is precisely the inten-
sity of social fragmentation of this latter kind that has made it historically
difficult to unify Left or “antisystemic” forces in any durable and effective
organizational way. Ethnic groups, neighborhood movements, feminism,
various “countercultural” or alternative life-style groups, rank-and-file
labor dissidence, student movements, single-issue movements—all have in
the United States seemed to project demands and strategies which were
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Toward Transcritical Counteractions
theoretically incompatible with each other and impossible to coordinate on
any practical political basis. The privileged form in which the American Left
can develop today must therefore necessarily be that of an alliance politics;
and such a politics is the strict practical equivalent of the concept of totaliza-
tion on the theoretical level. In practice, then, the attack on the concept of
“totality” in the American framework means the undermining and the repu-
diation of the only realistic perspective in which a genuine Left could come
into being in this country. There is therefore a real problem about the im-
portation and translation of theoretical polemics which have a quite differ-
ent semantic content in the national situation in which they originate, as in
that of France, where the various nascent movements for regional auton-
omy, women’s liberation and neighborhood organization are perceived as
being repressed, or at least hampered in their development, by the global or
“molar” perspectives of the traditional Left mass parties.
In contrast to Lukács’ theory of totality, this is a transcritical recogni-
tion. And the tendency Jameson commented on here is no longer
limited to the United States of America. In the climate following the
1990s, it has become the same world over. Antisystemic movements
are flourishing in the advanced capitalist states. But, being too
afraid of totalization and the representative system, these move-
ments are isolated from each other. The reason is clear: They are
gathered under single thematic frames, respectively—feminism, ho-
mosexuality, ethnicity, environmental concerns, and so on. The im-
portance of these movements lies in the fact that they take up the
existential dimension that cannot be reduced to the previous move-
ments centered on the relation of production and/or class relation.
But my point is that individuals are living in plural dimensions of so-
cial relations. Hence, the movements that are grounded upon a one-
dimensional identity come to face internal conflicts by way of the
return of the differences in the bracketed dimensions.
For in-
stance, as I have mentioned, consumers’ movements are opposing
labor movements in many regions. But then, again, it is likely that
social democracy would subsume the mutually isolated, molecular
movements. Thus, the movements that refuse centralization and
representation have only two choices: being represented by a party
that participates in the state power or remaining local. The choice is
whether to be subsumed into the capitalist nation-state or left un-
touched and fragmented.
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 305
The starting point of the counteraction is each individual. But this
is not an abstract individual, but an individual who is placed in the
nexus of social relations. Every individual lives in multidimensions.
Therefore, the counteraction should organize a semi-lattice system
that loosely synthesizes the multidimensionality, acknowledging the
independence of each dimension and therefore acknowledging an
individual’s belonging to multidimensions.
The association of asso-
ciations is far from the organization of the tree structure, while at
the same time it would remain isolated, dispersed, and conflicting, if
it did not have a center. So it needs a center, but the center should
exist as a function just like transcendental apperception X and not
something substantial. The association of associations should be
equipped with a mechanism that avoids the reification of a substan-
tial center. In the concrete, the associations would be united by a
central committee consisting of a representative of each dimension.
In this case, not only the normal vote but also the lottery must be in-
troduced at the final stage. In this way, an organization with and
without a center can be realized. It is evident that if the counter
movement against capital and state does not itself embody the prin-
ciples that go beyond them, there is no way for it to sublate them in
the future.
To conclude, I emphasize that the two types of struggles—the im-
manent and ex-scendent—against capital and state can be united
only in the circulation process, that is, the place where workers ap-
pear as consumers en masse. Only here is the moment that individu-
als can become subjects. Association is finally the form based on
individuals’ subjectivity. In the organization of the semi-lattice struc-
ture I described earlier, the multidimensional social relation that is
beyond individuals’ will and conditions individuals’ beings is never
6715 CH07 UG 1/29/03 8:02 PM Page 306
1. Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. and ed. Mary Gre-
gor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 38, 4:429.
2. See Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics [1783], trans. and ed.
Gary Hatfield (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 10. Kant says: “The
remembrance of David Hume was the very thing that many years ago first inter-
rupted [the] dogmatic slumber.”
3. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason [1781/1787], trans. and ed. Paul Guyer
and Allen W. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), p. 99, Aix.
4. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 117, Bxxx.
5. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, in Karl Marx and Friedrich
Engels, Collected Works, vol. 5 (New York: International Publishers, 1976), p. 49.
6. Karl Marx, “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law: Intro-
duction” [1844], in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works, vol. 3 (New York:
International Publishers, 1976), p. 182.
1. Karl Marx, “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law: Intro-
duction” [1844], in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works, vol. 3 (New York:
International Publishers, 1976), p. 175.
2. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, vol. 1, trans. Ben Fowkes (Har-
mondsworth: Penguin Books, 1976), p. 163.
3. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, pp. 102–103.
6715 NOTES UG 1/29/03 8:03 PM Page 307
4. See Kozo Uno, Principles of Political Economy, trans. Thomas T. Sekine (Atlantic
Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1980).
5. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983).
6. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, p. 176.
7. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, p. 182.
8. Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Quintin Hoare and
Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971), p. 283.
9. Karl Marx, “The Civil War in France,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected
Works, vol. 22 (New York: International Publishers, 1976), p. 335.
10. See Marx, Capital, vol. 3, p. 567.
11. Karl Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich
Engels, Collected Works, vol. 24 (New York: International Publishers, 1976), pp. 93–94.
12. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, p. 92.
13. Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Notebook IV, trans. Martin Nicolaus (Harmondworth:
Penguin Books, 1993), pp. 420–421.
14. ”Ex-scendent” is a compound deriving from the translation of the Japanese term
cho-shutsu, which means “exiting and transcending.”
15. See Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1944).
1 The Kantian Turn
1. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason [1781/1787], trans. and ed. Paul Guyer
and Allen W. Wood, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 512–513,
2. Thomas Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1957), p. 4.
3. C. G. Jung, Symbols of Transformation: An Analysis of the Prelude to a Case of Schizophre-
nia, translated by R. F. C. Hull (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967),
pp. 4–5. The sentence within the brackets was translated from the German original
by Geoffe Waite to emphasize the nuance lacking in the published English transla-
tion, the sense of achieving an externalized stance comparable to the Copernican
Turn (C. G. Jung, Gesammelte Werke, ed. Lilly Jung-Merker and Elisabeth Rüf, vol. 5:
Symbole der Wandlung: Analyse des Vorspiels zu einer Schizophrenie [Freiburg: Walter-
Verlag, 1973], p. 23).
4. See The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX: Encore 1972–1973 [1975], ed. Jacques-
Alain Miller, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: Norton, 1998), pp. 123–136.
5. Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics [1783], trans. and ed. Gary
Hatfield (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 10.
6715 NOTES UG 1/29/03 8:03 PM Page 308
6. Kant’s Introduction to Logic, trans. Thomas Kingsmill Abbott (London: Thoemmes
Press, 1992; reprint of the 1885 edition), p. 5.
7. Immanuel Kant, “Nachricht von der Einrichtung seiner Vorlesungen in dem
Winterhalbjahre von 1765–1766,” in Immanuel Kant’s Werke, vol. 2 (Berlin: Bruno
Cassirer, 1922), p. 325.
8. I learned much from Yoshifumi Hamada’s close readings on Kant. For further
reference concerning Home’s role in Kant’s critique, see Hamada Yoshifumi, Kant
Rinrigaku no Seiritsu [The Establishment of Kant’s Ethics] (Tokyo: Keiso Shobo,
9. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment [1790], trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis:
Hackett, 1987), p. 56. Translation slightly modified.
10. Kant, Critique of Judgment, p. 59.
11. Kant, Critique of Judgment, p. 60.
12. The New Science of Giambattista Vico [1725], trans. and ed. Thomas Goddard
Bergin and Max Harold Fisch, bk. I, XII (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976),
p. 63.
13. Kant, Critique of Judgment, p. 177.
14. See Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations [1945], 3d ed., trans. G. E. M.
Anscombe (New York: Macmillan, 1958), e.g., props. 261–275.
15. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, pp. 484–485, A444/B472-A445/B473.
16. See Hannah Arendt, Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1982).
17. Jean-François Lyotard, L’enthousiasme: La critique kantienne de l’histoire (Paris: Edi-
tions Galilee, 1986), esp. pp. 105–113.
18. See Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (London: Hutchinson & Co.,
1959; first published in German in 1934).
19. See Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions [1962], 2d enlarged
ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), esp. chap 5: “The Priority of
20. For Paul Feyerabend’s first argument to this effect, see Against Method: Outline of
an Anarchist Theory of Knowledge [1975] (London: Verso, 1978); for compressed sum-
maries of his critique of Kuhn, see Killing Time: The Autobiography of Paul Feyerabend
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), esp. pp. 67, 128–129, 142, 154.
21. For part of Popper’s critique of Kuhn in this regard, see Objective Knowledge: An
Evolutionary Approach (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), esp. pp. 182, 216.
22. Other important, related literary responses to the Lisbon Earthquake include
Goethe’s depiction of it in the first book of Dichtung und Wahrheit [Poetry and Truth,
6715 NOTES UG 1/29/03 8:03 PM Page 309
1811–1835], which chronicles his life up to precisely 1755, and Heinrich von Kleist’s
“transnational” restaging of the significance of the event in South America, in his
short story “Das Erdbeben in Chili” [The Earthquake in Chile, 1806].
23. See his letter, “An Fräulein Charlotte von Knobloch. 10 August 1763?,” in Im-
manuel Kant’s Werke, vol. 9 (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1922), pp. 34–39.
24. Not incidentally, Kant’s thesis about vision is close to one of Lacan’s basic defini-
tions of psychotic paranoia. Lacan also noted that “the history of paranoia . . . made its
first appearance with a psychiatrist disciple of Kant at the beginning of the nine-
teenth century,” specifically that “R. A. Vogel is generally credited with having intro-
duced the term into modern usage in 1764” (The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book III:
The Psychoses 1955–1956 [1981], ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Russell Grigg [New
York: Norton, 1993], p. 4).
25. Immanuel Kant, “Träume eines Geistersehers, erläutert durch Träume der
Metaphysik,” in Immanuel Kant’s Werke, vol. 2 (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1992),
pp. 363–364: “Daher verdenke ich es dem Leser keinesweges, wenn er, anstatt die Geis-
terseher vor Halbbürger der andern Welt anzusehen, sie kurz und gut als Kandidaten
des Hospitals abfertigt und sich dadurch alles weiteren Nachforschens überhebt.” For a
partial translation, see “Dreams of a Visionary Explained by Dreams of Metaphysics,”
trans. Carl J. Friedrich, in The Philosophy of Kant (New York: Modern Library, 1993).
26. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 99, Aviii, Aix.
27. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 100, Ax, Axi.
28. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 99, Avii.
29. A book by the Japanese philosopher, Megumi Sakabe, Risei no Fuan [Anxiety of
Reason] (Tokyo: Keiso Shobo, 1982) informed me of the approach to reading Cri-
tique of Pure Reason via “Dreams of Visionary.” In his book, Sakabe holds that the dy-
namism of self-critique (of undecidability) in “Dreams” is lost in Critique, while I
believe that it is made full use of in the transcendental method developed therein.
30. Immanuel Kant, “Dreams of a Visionary,” in The Philosophy of Kant, p. 15.
31. Jacques Derrida, Speech and Phenomena [1967], trans. David B. Allison (Evanston,
IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973), p. 79.
32. See Immanuel Kant, Philosophical Correspondence 1759–1799, ed. and trans. Arnulf
Zweig (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), p. 96. In the letter written to
Mercus Hertz (about May 11, 1781), right before the publication of the first edition
of Critique of Judgment, Kant confessed that he had an alternative plan in mind. That
is, he should have started with “The Antinomy of Pure Reason,” “which could have
been done in colorful essays and would have given the reader a desire to get at the
sources of the thing-in-itself.” In Kant’s published version, the thing-in-itself is expli-
cated as if it were ontologically premised, whereas in fact it would more properly in-
tervene skeptically by way of the antinomy or dialectic in the Kantian sense. The same
is true of transcendental subjectivity.
33. Kant himself warned against finding mystical implications in the thing-in-itself:
“Idealism consists in the claim that there are none other than thinking beings; the
6715 NOTES UG 1/29/03 8:03 PM Page 310
other things that we believe we perceive in intuition are only representations in
thinking beings, to which in fact no object existing outside these beings corre-
sponds. I say in opposition: There are things given to us as objects of our senses ex-
isting outside us, yet we know nothing of them as they may be in themselves, but are
acquainted only with their appearances, i.e., with the representations that they pro-
duce in us because they affect our senses. Accordingly, I by all means avow that there
are bodies outside us” (Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, ed. and trans. Gary
Hatfield [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997], pp. 40–41). Kant thus ac-
knowledges that both the world and other selves are not our products; they exist and
become, irrespective of our being; in other terms, we are beings-in-the world. He
uses the thing-in-itself in order to stress the passivity of the subject. As I argued previ-
ously vis-à-vis the Marxian turn, a proper materialism that is neither rationalist nor
empiricist can come into existence only out of such a stance.
34. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 687, A825–826, B853–854.
2 The Problematic of Synthetic Judgment
1. Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics [1783], trans. and ed. Gary
Hatfield (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 20, 4:272–4:273.
2. See Gottfried Martin, Immanuel Kant-Ontologie und Wissenschaftstheorie (Cologne:
Kölner Universitätsverlag, 1960).
3. In this regard, see Kant’s remark in his Critique of Pure Reason [1781/1787]: “But
where the public holds that subtle sophists are after nothing less than to shake the
foundation of the public welfare, then it seems not only prudent but also permissible
and even credible to come to the aid of the good cause with spurious grounds rather
than to give its putative enemies even the advantage of lowering our voice to the
modesty of a merely practical conviction and necessitating us to admit the lack of
speculative and apodictic certainty. I should think, however, that there is nothing in
the world less compatible with the aim of maintaining a good cause than duplicity,
misrepresentation, and treachery” (trans. and ed. Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood
[Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997], pp. 648–649, A749–750 B777–778).
4. ”Diesen zufolge halte ich davor, daß die Substanzen in der existierenden Welt,
woven wir ein Teil sind, wesentliche Kräfte von der Art haben, daß sie in Vereini-
gung miteinander nach der doppelten umgekehrten Verhältnis der Weiten ihre
Wirkungen von sich ausbreiten; zweitens, daß das Ganze, was daher dreifachen Di-
mension habe; drittens, daß dieses Gesetze willkürlich sei, und daß Gott davor ein
anderes, zum Exempel der umgekehrten dreifachen Verhältnis, hätte wählen kön-
nen; daß endlich viertens aus einem andern Gesetze auch eine Ausdehnung von an-
dern Eigenschaften und Abmessungen geflossen wäre. Eine Wissenschaft von allen
diesen möglichen